Who elected to carry off Hild?
Who are forever fighting?
Who will be reconciled at the [very] last?
Who incited the princes [to fight]?
Hedinn elected to carry off Hild;
The Hjaddings are forever fighting;
They will be reconciled at the [very] last;
Hild incited the princes [to fight].
[Gade, Kari, ed. ‘Háttalykill]
(From the mid-12th cent. Old Norse poem ‘Háttalykill,’ composed by the Norwegian Earl Rögnvald of Orkney and the Icelander Hallr Þórarinsson, stanza 45.) 
The 13th century compiler of Old Norse myths, Snorri Sturluson, relates the Old Norse version of the Germanic legend of Hild and the Hjaddings’ battle in this way: King Hedinn raided King Hogni’s turf while the latter was away, and he also jacked Hogni’s daughter, Hildr. When Hogni found out, he chased Hedinn all the way to the Isle of Hoy in the Orkney Isles of Scotland. Hedinn sent Hildr (of all people) to her father, with gold neck-rings as atonement, for her own kidnapping. 
According to Snorri, Hildr tells her father that if he doesn’t accept that peace-offering, then Hedinn is ready to fight.
Hogni doesn’t accept the gold; so Hildr trots back to Hedinn, and the battle begins. It goes on all day, and then the survivors retire to their camps for the night. But Hildr goes to the battlefield and revives by sorcery those who had died in battle. The next day, the revenants join the living in battle again. The dead turn into stones until they are revived by Hildr’s witchcraft to fight again. And so it will go on, until Ragnarök: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ragnar%C3%B6k
Snorri goes on to quote several stanzas of a poem called Ragnarsdrápa, which he attributes to the earliest known court poet in Old Norse, Bragi Boddason. You can find those stanzas in English, as well as Snorri’s version of events in: Snorra Edda transl. by Anthony Faulkes: http://vsnrweb-publications.org.uk/EDDArestr.pdf pages 122 – 124; but, for the benefit of those who are not familiar with the Old Norse system of ‘kennings,’ I’m going to offer you my own paraphrase of Bragi’s stanzas:
“And the bloody-minded Valkyrie-like Hildr was out to provoke a fight against her father, when she, the valkyrie filled with malice, carried a warrior’s neck-ring to the ships.
“That valkyrie overseer of bloody wounds did not offer the splendid ruler Hogni a neck ring with the idea that he should accept it and run from battle. Thus she continually behaved as if she was opposed to a battle, although in reality she was goading the princes onwards to a ghastly death.
“Hatred swelled in Hogni’s breast and he did not flinch from battle; his sea-warriors attacked Hedinn, rather than accepting the neck-rings of Hildr.
“This attack can be seen on the shield that Ragnar gave me, together with a multitude of stories.
“And on the island, instead of Hogni, that war-booty-destroying wicked witch of a woman took control. The sea-faring king’s whole army steadily advanced from their ships, under their shields.”
Hildr’s own unexplained immunity from dying is a distinctive feature that she shares with another enigmatic female character in the Old Norse myths, who is also arguably linked to sorcery, namely, ‘Gullveig;’ and Hildr’s connection with sorcery is shared by ‘Heidr,’ who is thought by many scholars to be Gullveig:’
The war I remember, the first in the world,
When the gods with spears had smitten Gullveig,
And in the hall of Hár had burned her,
Three times burned, and three times born,
Oft and again, yet ever she lives.
Heidr they named her who sought their home
The wide-seeing witch, in magic wise;
Minds she bewitched that were moved by her magic,
To evil women a joy she was.
(Trans. by Henry Adams Bellows, stanza 21. See his translation of the entire poem here: http://www.voluspa.org/voluspa.htm )
Gullveig, Heidr and the narrator of the Eddic poem Vǫluspá: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V%C3%B6lusp%C3%A1 will be the subjects of my next blog-post.
Although it is nowhere stated specifically in the still-extant fragments of the Old Norse Hildr myth that she too was impervious to death, that imperviousness is nevertheless a corollary of her being able to bring the dead to life night after night until the gods themselves meet their doom.
In this blog-post, I will look at the possible answers to the question: what was the clearly heathen poet, Bragi Boddason, thinking that Hildr was, what sort of a creature, this mysterious being who was not a god, but who, nevertheless, had a peculiar power over death? We are never going to know for sure what Bragi thought, but we have the poem attributed to him, as a kind of lens through which we can examine a range of possible models as regards Hildr’s identity, as well as other writings, although the latter must be used warily, as they are mostly dated later than the 9th century in which Bragi wrote his poem. We also have early Norwegian and Icelandic law codes to set the social context, although, again, the earliest written versions of those laws are dated well after Bragi’s time and well into the Christian period in Scandinavia.
Another issue I will address in this blog-post is the sadly neglected issue of Hildr’s motivation. Every scholar I have read is given up on this issue, saying that there is not enough information.
Those same archaic laws, however, together with data on social customs, give more than adequate information on at least the human side of the princess Hildr’s motivation. I am really surprised that none of the eminent scholars whose writings I have studied have ever seriously tackled that issue, to the best of my now-considerable knowledge (as you will see) of the Hildr legend.
The third issue that has never, to the best of my knowledge, been addressed by contemporary scholars, is the question: how does Hildr do it? How does she raise dead men back to life, over and over again, until doomsday? At least, how were Scandinavian heathens like Bragi thinking it was done? Again, we’ll never know for sure, but there is a range of possibilities, based on what we can know about Old Norse magical practices, and a look at some analogues for the Hildr myth, from both later Norse versions as well as from even later Anglo-Saxon and Celtic analogues.
PICTURE 01 A detail from one of the Viking-Age picture-stones located in Stora Hammars, Lärbro parish, Gotland, Sweden. Photo by: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Berig , creative attribution, share-alike license.
The detail shown above from the Stora Hammars 1 stone is thought by a number of scholars to represent the Hjaðningavíg myth. 
01. What Sort of Creature was Hildr thought to have been?
In the paraphrase I gave above of Bragi’s stanzas, I used the word ‘valkyrie.’ The name ‘Hildr’ was a well-known name of one of Odin’s ‘maidens;’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valkyrie and it unquestionably carried the valkyrie connotation for Bragi. However, he does not use the word to describe Hildr; and I only used it because it was either that, or give you an instant crash course right there in the introduction, in the kennings Bragi does use for Hildr.
That crash course comes now.
01.1 The Kennings, or Epithets, for Hildr, used by the poet of Ragnarsdrápa
Kennings were a short descriptive phrase used by court poets, in place of the actual name for something. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenning ….
Bragi uses several kennings to describe the being that ignited the legendary eternal battle, and we are going to look at those kennings now.
The first one is ‘ósk-Rán,’ where I used ‘valkyrie.’ http://vsnrweb-publications.org.uk/Skaldskaparmal.1.unicode.pdf page 72. Anthony Faulkes translates this as ‘the Ran who wishes (too great drying of veins) …’ http://vsnrweb-publications.org.uk/EDDArestr.pdf page 123.
In her extensive analysis and translation of Bragi’s Ragnarsdrápa, Margaret Clunies Ross translates ósk-Rán as “the desiring-Ran (of the excessive drying of veins)…” [Clunies Ross (2), page 39] In her extensive notes on the stanza, Clunies Ross further states that, through Bragi’s use of the phrase “ósk-Rán ofþerris *æða ‘the desiring- Rán, ie. ‘goddess’ of the excessive drying of veins [VALKYRIE = Hildr]” Bragi “immediately establishes through this kenning Hildr’s destructive and predatory, almost cannibalistic qualities.” [ibid, page 40] She goes on to point out that the compound óskamær appears in several Old Norse literary sources as a term for a valkyrie; and she translates that latter compound as “’desire [i.e. ‘desired’ or ‘desiring’] maiden…” and she says that, therefore, “the similarity of the cpd ósk-Rán strongly indicates Hildr’s role as a valkyrie.” [ibid]
Cleasby and Vigfusson translate óskamær as ‘wish maid;’ and, although it is arguable that the term was intended to refer to the valkyrie Brunhild within the context of her role as a valkyrie, there is precedent for the term as such. 
However, arguing even more strongly than dissident translations in the valkyrie context, against Clunies Ross’s translation of óskamær as referencing ‘desire, desired or desiring,’ is the use of the phrase in reference to the Virgin Mary in a 14th century praise poem, Maríuvísur I:
23 Máttr var móður dróttins
mjög ríkr um frú slíka
sýndr með sætleik reyndum
4 sveit í loganum heita;
þann gaf þessi kvinnu
þrótt óskamey dróttins;
hosk sat brúðr í ‹. . .›
8 baugstalls um dag allan.
“The very great power of the mother of the Lord in relation to this woman in the hot flame, with her proven kindness, was shown to the people; the chosen virgin of the Lord gave that fortitude to this woman; the wise woman sat in . . . of the ring-seat [arm or shield] all day long…” [Wrightson, page 51, stanza 23]
Now, whatever the court poet who wrote Maríuvísur I was thinking óskamær meant, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t thinking of her as an object of desire, nor would he have used language that implied it, because that would have been blasphemous.
Oh sure, the meaning of a word can change over a period of a few hundred years; but, the use of óskamær in a poem about Mary certainly doesn’t support the translation of its use in Ragnarsdrapa as meaning ‘desired, desiring,’ either.
I’m going to come back to a discussion of ósk, but for the moment I want to examine the validity of Clunies Ross’s interpretation of the compound ósk-Rán in Ragnarsdrapa as being a strong indication of Hildr’s role as a valkyrie.
The two compounds, óskamær and ósk-Rán are certainly not exact synonyms. ‘Mær’ means ‘maiden,’ whereas Rán as a common noun means ‘robbery.’ [Quinn 01, page 74] As a personal name, Rán personified the deadly and treacherous aspects of the sea in the mythical form of the wife of the sea-god. According to Judy Quinn, Rán personified death by drowning, whereas the valkyrie personified death in battle. [Quinn 01, pages 74 – 75] The two types of death are clearly not the same at all, in context or in character. And it’s interesting that Bragi’s first kenning for Hildr uses the name of the personification of death by drowning, because he also says that the battle took place, not at sea, but on an island.
Quinn conjectures that “Rán’s association with the ruthless killing of men is probably why Bragi Boddason, in the ninth century, chose her as the base-word in his kenning for the valkyrie, Hildr, in Ragnasdrápa 1: “ofþerris æða ósk-Rán” [the desiring- (or desired-)Rán of the excessive drying of veins] (Skm 250).” [Quinn 01, page 82] She also points out that Bragi’s use of Rán’s name in a non-seafaring context is not quite the sole one in skaldic poetry: “When Hallfreðr vandræðaskáld Óttarsson imagined the love-making between the woman he desired and her husband, he described her as gloomy “dýnu Rán” [Rán of the eiderdown] (Lv 15 V), a depiction which encodes both the intimacy he assumes and the peril he courts.11” [ibid, page 82 – 83]
However, Quinn also points out that “In Helgakviða Hundingsbana I too, a valkyrie is pitted against Rán in a tussle to control the fate of the hero. In this company, Rán seems to represent the ineluctable tug of mortality, a force that can only be countered by the temporary protection of a valkyrie whose medium is air rather than land or sea.” [ibid, page 91] The dyadic representation of Rán and a valkyrie in Helgakviða Hundingsbana I does not readily suggest to me that they were thought of as being essentially the same power or force.
Rudolph Simek concluded that “… Rán is the ruler over the realm of the dead at the bottom of the sea to which people who have drowned go. Whilst [her husband, the giant named Ægir] personifies the sea as a friendly power, Rán embodies the sinister side of the sea, at least in the eyes of the late Viking Age Icelandic seafarers…” [Simek (1), page 260]
PICTURE 02 RAN Ran and Her Nets, public domain, various.
As a sister to the goddess of death, I can see Rán; the goddess of the drowned at the bottom of the sea has a lot in common with the goddess of the underworld where all the people go who don’t die a warrior’s death. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hel_(being) .
PICTURE 03 HEL ‘Hel’ picture by Zarubina Mkasahara, creative attribution, share-alike license
But, as the next-of-kin to Hildr and her sisters, those who choose who will die in battle: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valkyrie I can’t say that I’m exactly struck by the resemblance.
PICTURE 04 VALKYRIE ‘Valkyrie’ by Peter Nicolai Arbo (1831–1892), public domain.
To sum up: Rán catches those who fall into her power; Hel keeps those who fall into her domain; and the valkyrie calls to a battle that may or may not be doom for those who answer her call. Those three actions are quite distinct from each other.
Moreover, the ‘Hildr’ in the earliest Norse legends of the Hjaðningavíg does something other than a valkyrie call to battle. She calls to a battle where the outcome is pre-determined: where everyone is doomed, nobody wins, and, most chillingly of all, everyone joins the undead. The fate of the Hjaðningavíg warriors is to spend eternity in a travesty of the destination they would have been hoping for: Valhalla: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valhalla . Their terrible fate is not a parallel to Valhalla; there is no ‘rest’ for them, no convivial drinking and merry-making. They fight and they die, they turn into stones, and then they get bewitched back into a kind of ‘half-life’ to fight again, until they die again; and so it goes on until the gods themselves die.
So, I think we should be very careful about drawing casual comparisons of Hildr with Rán and with Hel. The contexts in which those three beings appear to be operating in the Norse sources are quite distinct.
There is another reason we should be cautious of making quick assumptions that we know why Bragi Boddason used the epithet ósk-Rán to describe Hildr, and that is, the calibre of the poet himself.
Bragi lived in the 9th century, in the twilight of the Viking era, and he has been variously described as having been a court poet to Norse, or Swedish or Danish kings. Margaret Clunies Ross states that: “If Bragi’s patron Ragnarr is to be identified with the Viking leader who led an attack on Paris in 845, supposedly died in a snake-pit at the hands of King Ælla of Northumbria, and was the father of the Ingware and Ubba that the F version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle claims led raids on England in the 860s and 70s (de Vries 1928a; McTurk 1991a), then their association is just possible chronologically and geographically, as Ragnarr’s connections within Scandinavia were with Norway as well as with Denmark (Smyth 1977, 17 – 20). 
Ursula Dronke argues that the “complex brilliance of the diction of the Ragnarsdrápa,” together with the “less sophisticated use of the dróttkvætt [courtly poetic metre],” and the lack of a saga framework for Bragi all strongly suggest that the Ragnarsdrápa is “an authentic work of Bragi’s, and unless the attributions of poems to scalds [court poets] of identifiable are all to be doubted, it seems safe to assume that Bragi’s verses were earlier than theirs and belonged to the ninth century…” [Dronke (1), pages 204 – 205]
The next epithet applied to Hildr in the Ragnarsdrápa is hristi-Sif hringa [Faulkes, Skáldskaparmál, 1998, page 72], which Anthony Faulkes translates and interprets to mean “ring – (sword) shaking Sif (Hild)…” [Faulkes, Snorra Edda, page 123]. Clunies Ross translates it as “shaking-Sif (goddess) of rings (VALKYRIE = Hildr)” [Clunies Ross (2), p. 39]. She also states that “The connotations of this kenning are complex…” focusing on the various meanings that ‘ring’ could have in the epithet, and suggesting that “Bragi’s choice of the goddess-name Sif, wife of Þórr, which has the sense ‘kinship, affinity’ as a common noun, may be ironic here, for Hildr is concerned to break the ties of kinship.” [Clunies Ross (2), page 40]
But, surely the ‘kinship, affinity’ boat would have already sailed, at the same time that Hedinn had kidnapped our girl Hildr.
Richard North translates the epithet as ‘Sif of shaking bracelets’ and interprets it as a kenning for a “marriageable woman: Hildr” [North, page 131].
The next kenning that the poet Bragi applies to Hildr is: sú til bleyði boeti-Þrúðr… dre‹y›rug‹r›a benja. [Faulkes (1), p. 73.
The phrase in between those two phrases, ‘málma mætum hilm‹i› men,’ belongs to another idea in the poem; Old Norse court poetry was also complex in its structure.)
The translations I have of Ragnarsdrápa, those of: Clunies Ross, Richard North, Anthony Faulkes and Arthur Brodeur, are fairly similar with respect to this kenning, all something along the lines of: “This bloody wound-curing Thrud…” [Faulkes (2), p. 123]
Although Margaret Clunies Ross indicates, correctly, that the epithet means ‘Valkyrie,’ she also interprets it in this context as meaning the same ‘Thrud’ who is said by at least one court poet to be the daughter of Thor. She bases this interpretation, and understandably so, on the first verse of Ragnarsdrápa, which refers to a giant named Hrungnir by way of the kenning ‘the thief of Þrúðr,’ and Snorri quotes a court poet who used the kenning ‘Thrud’s father’ to refer to the god Thor. [Faulkes (2), p. 72 – 73] The kenning ‘thief of Thrud’ refers to a myth that has been lost, unfortunately. A related kenning, also quoted by Snorri, by the late-tenth century court poet Eilífr Goðrúnarson in his praise poem to the god Thor, Þórsdrápa, calls Thor ‘the one who strongly misses Þrúðr.’ https://web.archive.org/web/20060923215727/http://www.hi.is/~eybjorn/ugm/thorsd00.html or ‘the one who longs for Thor in his heart.’ [Faulkes (2), page 85]
Thrud (Old Norse ‘Þrúðr’) is one of the oldest recorded base-names in kennings, dating back to the 10th century. Hild (O.N. ‘Hildr’) is even older, dating back to the 9th century in kennings. [Price, page 286]
It shows up in a kenning for ‘warrior’ or ‘revenant’  in the only known record on a rune-stone, of a complete verse in the court poetry meter called dróttkvætt https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alliterative_verse#Dr%C3%B3ttkv%C3%A6tt
05 KARLEVI STONE
The Karlevi runestone in Vickleby Parish, Mörbylånga Municipality, Öland, Sweden.
This is a picture of an archaeological site or a monument in Sweden, number Vickleby 10:1 in the RAÄ Fornsök database. Photo by https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Berig, Creative attribution, share-alike license
For more on the Karlevi Runestone and the reference to Thrud, see note 06.
The name ‘Þrúðr’ means ‘power, treader’ [Price, page 283] and, as Thor’s ‘daughter,’ she is, “like Thor’s son, Magni, a personification of her father’s strength. “ [Simek (1), page 329]
The final kenning that Bragi aims Hildr’s way is ‘fengeyðandi fljóða fordæða nam ráða,’ which Anthony Faulkes translates as ‘that victory-preventing witch among women.’ [Faulkes (1) page 73, and Faulkes (2) page 123, respectively] Faulkes notes in his introduction to the Prose Edda that he went for a very literal translation of the Edda. In his ‘Glossary’ to Skaldskaparmal, Faulkes gives the following range of meanings for fordæða: f. evil-doer, wicked creature, witch; f. fljóða evil creature among women v254/4 (subj. of nam ráða)
- 277, Skáldskaparmál 2. Glossary and Index of Names Edited by Anthony Faulkes, Viking Society for Northern Research http://www.vsnrweb-publications.org.uk/Edda-2b.pdf
However, Arthur Brodeur’s translation of the same phrase: ‘that baleful witch of women, wasting the fruits of victory,’ [Brodeur, page 132], is the best and most fully accurate, within the context of how the word fordæða would likely have been understood by Bragi in the late 9th century, in terms of its connotations with respect to his stanzas on the Hjaðningavíg.  
Given the legal connotations for the concept as set down in the earliest written Old Norse laws, Margaret Clunies Ross’s 1973 translation of ‘arch-sorceress’ for the word fordæða in Bragi’s stanzas is inaccurate [Clunies Ross (1), page 91]; and her 2017 translation of ‘evil-doer’ for the same is inadequate. [Clunies Ross (2) pages 43, 44].
And of course, we have Snorri’s characterization of Hildr as being the daughter of a king. Not that this rules out her having a non-human side to her, by any means. [See Note 04(ii), for the example of Brynhildr.] The legendary princess Skuld, who shared her name with one of the Old Norse ‘fates’ called Norns, as well as with a valkyrie, was another epic trouble-maker along the general lines of Hildr in character: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skuld_(princess) ……
It’s clear that Bragi thought of Hildr of the Hjaðningavíg as being an entity possessed of both supernatural powers and malign intent, who was incarnate in female human form. In order to maintain the battle of the Hjaddings until the end of the gods themselves, Hildr would have to be effectively immortal herself.
However, she does not start out in the legend of the eternal battle as being manifestly of another world. She is a princess who apparently gets abducted, and it is from that viewpoint that I would now like to address her motivation for wreaking a truly terrifying revenge on both her abductor’s army and that of her failed protector’s. I will return later to the question of what Hildr was, when we look at the question of ‘how does she do it, how does she bring stones back to life every night?
02. What motivation did the princess Hildr have for exacting a gruesome revenge against both her abductors and her would-be protectors?
Margaret Clunies Ross points out that: “… it was abnormal for an abducted woman to offer compensation to her wronged father, more unusual still for her to bring about her father’s death. In most cases of abduction recorded in Old Icelandic literature the woman avenges herself on her abductor, as in Ch. 48 of the Ynglingsaga, and not on her own kin; moreover, the settlement of an abduction case was a male affair, the woman’s male kinsfolk being the only ones entitled to avenge her theft.8 …” [Clunies Ross (1), page 77]
However, neither Clunies Ross nor any other scholar I consulted appears to have carefully examined the assumption that – drawing on Snorri Sturluson’s phrases for Hildr in Hattatal, such as ‘Hedinn’s darling,’ ‘Hildr prepares a bed for most helmet-damagers,’ and the like – they all seem to have made, which is that, when our girl Hildr sashayed onto her daddy’s ship, she was there as the representative of her lover/default hubby by way of abduction Hedinn, there to make peace between the two men. That’s the basic assumption that has never really been challenged by any scholar, as far as I know, with respect to Snorri’s writings on the subject and his quotes from Bragi Boddason. 
Given the venom with which Bragi has described her, plus the fact that her appearance at her father’s ship to negotiate over her own kidnapping would been something that was simply never done or even contemplated in Old Norse society, I should think it would behove scholars to look a little deeper into what was happening, at least, from Bragi’s point of view in the late ninth century.
The earliest sources for the myth, Ragnarsdrápa, Háttalykill and Snorri, agree that Hildr was the perpetuator of the eternal battle. They all agree that Hildr was abducted by Hedinn. Bragi says that Hildr only pretended to be working for peace. Snorri says that Hildr went to her father’s ship and offered him her own gold neck-ring as recompense for her own kidnapping. Snorri also says that, just before the battle first commenced, Hedinn offered Hildr’s father, Hogni, a great deal of gold to settle the matter. Hogni’s reply? ‘Should’a thought of that before I drew my sword, boyo.’
From these utterances, we can extrapolate the following idea: Hedinn was willing to offer Hogni a lot of gold, much more than one neck-ring, to settle the matter, and, Hogni would have been willing to accept the gold. Therefore, I think that it would be fair to say that our girl Hildr probably neglected to mention any offer of serious treasure to her father to settle the feud.
Well, why not? It was a king after all, who abducted her. And she was Hedinn’s ‘beloved,’ according to Snorri:
“Hjaldrremmir tekr Hildi
(hringr brestr at gjǫf) festa,
hnígr und Høgna meyjar
hers valdandi tjald;
Heðins mála býr hvílu
morðaukinn fliggr mæki
mund Hjaðninga sprund.
“The battle-strengthener [ruler] engages himself to Hild [a valkyrie], the ring is broken as a gift. The ruler of the host moves under Hogni’s daughter’s [Hild] tent [his shield]. Hedin’s beloved [Hild] prepares a bed [i.e. selects them for death] for most helmet-harmers [warriors]. The lady of the Hiadnings receives a wedding gift, a sword famous for slaying.” [Faulkes (2), pages 195 – 196]
As Margaret Clunies Ross pointed out, it was simply not done, for women to negotiate compensation for their own abduction.
So, what would have happened, logically, if a princess who’d been abducted then freely, evidently, walked onto her father’s ship to negotiate that compensation, what would the response have been?
I think the reaction of a 9th century audience, (or, really any audience not composed of people who live in ivory towers) would have been along the lines of the following:
Princess: ‘Hi, Dad.’
Dad, ‘So, he let you go, did he?’
Princess: ‘Well, not exactly, Dad. You see, I promised him I would get you to agree to compensation for my kidnapping.’
(By now, the 9th century Norse audience is rolling in the aisles.)
Dad: ‘I see. So, you ran away with him, did you? Well you can just go back to your lover-boy then, missy; you are not my daughter anymore, as of this very moment. And you are going to inherit diddly-squat, you hear me girl, zilch!’
More shrieks of laughter from the audience. Fade to black.
It’s pretty clear, however, that Bragi was not writing a farce, and that nobody was laughing.
So, we need a different lens with which to look at what could have happened, given the context of the earliest recounting of the Hjaðningavíg myth.
The earliest evidence from written sources as to the laws on abduction indicates that the Norse peoples took the kidnapping of their women very seriously: both the kidnapper and anyone who helped him or harboured him after the fact faced a penalty of full outlawry if the case wasn’t settled between the parties involved. 
Margaret Clunies Ross spent a great deal of effort looking for hidden meanings in Hildr’s offering of her neck-ring to her father as some kind of sneaky gesture to shame him, in order to explain his rage. [Clunies Ross (1)]
However, her theory is really unnecessary, in my opinion, because, the very fact of Hildr’s showing up to negotiate compensation for her own abduction would have had all kinds of ‘shame’ issues attached to it.
Her father’s natural response upon seeing his daughter sashay up the gangplank would have been anger and suspicion as regards her possible role in her own kidnapping. Not the best context for a peace talk.
Given this likely scenario, then, why would a warrior who had the nerve to jack a princess in a raid then turn around and hide behind her skirts, as it were, asking her of all people to negotiate the terms for peace?
The answer, from a 9th century Scandinavian society’s perspective, is that he simply wouldn’t. And a princess would never agree to peace either, for any price, and certainly not for the price of handing over her own gold necklace. Rudolph Simek enlightens us as to the reason why:
“Archaic marriages were based on a legal contract between two families, and the transference of the woman from the control of the previous family member responsible for her to the husband is a central moment in Germanic marriages. Even in medieval Icelandic texts, which are far advanced from the early Middle Ages, it was not the love between two partners or even the consumption [sic, Simek means ‘consummation,’ of course] of the marriage that mattered, but the contract arranged and sealed by the father when he gave the bride away.
“In Germanic law we can distinguish between at least five different types of marriage, only the first three of which would have been considered lawful marriages, or a matrimonium, namely
friedel-marriage (cf. ON friða) [note *below]
abduction (with consent)
abduction (without consent)
but only the first one was based on a proper contract and made the offspring capable of inheriting. [Emphasis mine.] The bride’s father (or whoever else had jurisdictional power over her) would be addressed and he was in charge of the marriage contract. This was not valid before a price (ON mundr) was paid to the family (rather than gifts were presented to the girl herself at this stage) and the dowry (heimanfylgja) had been agreed on. The marriage itself became valid when this contract was valid, when a wedding had been held in the presence of at least six guests serving as witnesses and the bridal couple had publicly entered the bed. This procedure in pre-Christian and early Christian Iceland was rounded off with the morning gift (linnfé). However all the first three types of marriage were considered legal, but the third only as a form of co-habitation between a man and a socially inferior woman, and there was no contract, no payment and no compulsory morning gift involved. This, by the way, is the type of union attempted by Freyr with Gerðr in Skírnismál.” [Simek (02), page 106]
We can see, therefore, that a marriage by abduction, with or without Hildr’s consent, automatically disinherited her and any children she had. Oh sure, the kings could write her and the offspring in, but it would be at their pleasure, not automatically given; and if there were other, more ‘legitimate’ heirs, then Hildr’s children could expect to have to fight for their share of any inheritance. Furthermore, Hildr’s now considered to be ‘married,’ to a guy she probably didn’t choose; so, her life has had a serious dent put in it; but, hey, it’s all okay to those two kings, as long as she’s ‘paid for,’ with gold. As Snorri says, Hedin tries to negotiate with his “father-in-law” just before battle commences. [Faulkes (2), page 122]
And scholars say her motivation isn’t clear. Are they joking? Hildr’s a princess, she’s high-born and coddled. Until suddenly, her nice, proper life and reputation get jacked from her, by two barterers, who are now figuring out how much gold they’ll have to trade so that they can move on from the bad state they’ve left her in. I’d be damn bitter, too. And looking for revenge.
Clearly, it’s just about the gold, for dear old Dad. If he gets enough of it, then he really won’t care too much about what happens to her. Those two kings, her father and her abductor, are just barterers, intent on bartering her life away.
Who the hell do they think they’re trying to buy and sell? She’ll show them who she is. She’ll show them who they’ve messed with.
And that’s when she makes her decision, uses the power inherent in her name and what turns out to be her essentially supernatural nature: ‘Hildr,’ ‘battle.’
Why have the scholars missed this point? I think it must have been because they’ve all taken Snorri at face value when he calls Hildr Hedinn’s ‘bed-mate, sweet-talker, lover,’ in Old Norse, ‘mala.’  It’s really a failure to accord to the scheming, unscrupulous 13th century poet-historian the gift of irony, because Snorri is clearly drawing on early sources most of which we don’t have access to. He quotes Bragi, who actually says right out that Hildr only pretended to be about peace. This strongly suggests that Snorri accepts Bragi’s version of the legend as having been the correct one. It is more reasonable, therefore, to accept that Snorri must have been speaking ironically when he calls Hildr Hedinn’s ‘bed-mate, honey.’   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snorri_Sturluson
We know that the two kings involved were willing to settle the abduction issue with gold, because Snorri says: “Then Hogni called out to his father-in-law Hedin and offered him atonement and a great deal of gold to make amends. Then Hogni replied, “You have offered this too late, if you want atonement, for I have now drawn Dainsleif, which the dwarfs made, which has to be the death of someone every time it is unsheathed…” [Faulkes (2), page 122]
So, if the abductor was willing to give a lot of gold in compensation, and the other was willing to take a lot of gold as compensation, then how did that battle happen?
Snorri says our girl Hild had gone to daddy and – offered him a lot of gold? No. She offered him her own neck-ring and then said in the next breath that Hedin was ready to fight if Hogni didn’t accept her neck-ring as compensation. Hogni answered his daughter “curtly.” [Faulkes (2), page 122]
So, here’s a model that does make sense of the context: Hedinn gets suckered in by his little ol’ ‘mala.’  She tells him how flattered she was that he chose her and went to all that trouble and danger to obtain her. (Spoiler alert: she’s not flattered, and she hates him for ruining her life and taking away her choices. If you don’t believe me, just remember how this story turns out, and who’s responsible for the way it ends. Hedinn’s ‘honey’ is the honey from Hell.) 
She tells him how she can’t wait to show him a really good time.
But, she’s terrified that Daddy will kill her new hubby if he’s the one to go to the ship to negotiate. Daddy has a bad temper, you see, and will likely skewer Hedinn or any of his men who go to the ship. She could tell him stories about Daddy that would help him to understand the truth of what she’s saying, but, there just isn’t time. Does he want the death of one of his own men on his conscience? Of course not. Does he want to kill her, his new bride, with grief by getting killed himself? Certainly not. Well, then, there’s only one solution. She’ll go tell Daddy how rich Hedinn is, and she’ll offer him a lot of gold as compensation. He finally agrees.
Now Hildr goes to Daddy’s ship. She talks sweetly, telling her father that she begged Hedinn to let her come to see her dear father, and, out of the goodness of his heart, he agreed to let her bring his offer of compensation. Her story makes Hogni look good to his men; so, he’ll accept her story at face value, at least for the time being. Then, Hildr offers him just her very own neck-ring, as compensation, coupled with a threat to challenge his courage, a very important attribute in a Viking chieftain. 
She doesn’t say, ‘Oh, no daddy, you’ve misunderstood. Hedinn’s going to give you a lot of gold, the necklace was just an example of what he’s going to give you.’ Nope. She says: ‘Take it or Hedinn will fight you to the death, daddy dearest,’ knowing darn well what the result will be.
And what is the response? Her father answers her curtly. Vesuvius would have looked tame by comparison to papa’s reaction to this affront to his reputation, and, it’s on, now. 
So, she scoots back to Hedinn and tells him she’s really sorry, but she’s just too darn precious to Daddy, and he’d rather fight than take even the (huge, no doubt) amount of gold that her sweet new hubby Hedinn had offered for her. She’ll cheer on her new hubby in the battle to come, though, and of course she hopes he’ll be coming home victorious to her warm embrace.
And then, Hogni’s warriors attack Hedinn “rather than accepting Hildr’s neck-rings.”
[Faulkes (2), page 123]
Now, how was that hard to see, as being the logical model of Hildr’s motivation and subsequent response, based on what we’ve been told from the earliest versions of the myth? Myself, I don’t think that was hard at all. You just have to think like an abducted valkyrie-princess would have been thinking, and accord Snorri Sturluson of all people the simple respect of considering him capable of irony in his descriptions of the sweet-talker from hell.  
And this brings us to:
03. How does Hildr do it, how does she bring ‘stones’ back to life every night?
Snorri is the only one of the early sources to refer to the men and their weapons being turned into stones every day, and being revived by Hildr every night, only to fight again. [Faulkes (02), page 123].
Snorri states: “Then they began the engagement that is known as the Hiadnings’ battle, and fought all that day, and at night the kings went to their ships. But during the night Hild went to the slain and woke up by magic all those that were dead. And the next day the kings went onto the battlefield and fought, and so did all those that had fallen the previous day. This battle continued day after day, with all those that fell, and all the weapons that lay on the battlefield, as well as shields, turning to stone. And when day came, all the dead men got up and fought, and all the weapons were useable. It says in the poems that the Hiadnings must thus await Ragnarok. Bragi the poet composed a passage based on this story in his drápa for Ragnar Lodbrok:” [ibid]
Leaving aside for the moment another question that has never been addressed by any scholar except, in passing, Ursula Dronke , – namely, how does Hildr keep herself alive long enough to torment everyone around her until Hell breaks loose? – There is the question of the mechanics of her legendary ability to ‘wake up’ the armies out of death, repeatedly, until the end of time, in fact.
Snorri uses a fairly generic word in Old Norse, fjǫlkyngi, for ‘magic,’ in the above passage, [Faulkes (01), page 72]. And that, dear readers, is the only word, literally, from the early sources, on the supposed mechanism of resurrection.
“…The word used in Guta saga (GLGS, 64 line 13) to describe Avair Strabain is fielkunnugr skilled in many things, and this word and its equivalents were also used, frequently with a positive connotation, to indicate skilled in magic arts, especially in OWN sources. The word fordeþskepr and its equivalents were more often used negatively in the sense, witchcraft, black arts…” [Peel, page 162]
But, saying she did it by ‘magic’ in the heathen Scandinavian period is like us saying we ‘had some weather’ today – it doesn’t even begin to tell the story, because Scandinavian heathens had a fair number of culturally important forms of magic:
to name several of the most important categories, other than herbal remedies, which were often mixed with one of the above magical practices to increase their efficacy.
However, Snorri does throw in three more concepts germane to the question of how the early tellers of the legend may have conceived of the ‘resurrection:’ he says Hild ‘woke up’ the dead; he says the dead were ‘woken up’ at night; and he says the dead plus their battle accoutrements turned into stones at the end of each daily battle. And he gives one final clue: the supposed location of the battle: “When King Hogni got to Norway he discovered that Hedin had sailed over the sea to the west. Then Hogni sailed after him all the way to the Orkneys, and when he got to the place called Hoy, he found Hedin there with his army…” [Faulkes (2), page 122]
So, now, I want to use those clues to look at one possible context for the mechanics of ‘resurrection’ in the Hjaðningavíg legend; and that is, the idea that Hildr used a supernatural board game, possibly one that had been stolen from the gods themselves.
Not much is known about the group of board games called ‘tafl’ within Old Norse heathen culture. We don’t know for sure how they were played, or what the rules were. And “tafl may mean any sort of board game” within that culture. [Tolkien, page 37]
What we have been able to infer from the material and literary data, however, is that tafl games were closely connected with death, magic and the realm of the gods, and burials of warriors in particular.
06 EARLY 11th CENTURY BOARD GAME, TRONDHEIM, NORWAY ‘Nefltafl’ board, with bone piecesPhoto by: NTNU Vitenskapsmuseet at https://www.flickr.com/people/38254448@N05
Creative attribution, share-alike license
There is some archaeological evidence that the games had spiritual and cultural dimensions beyond the merely material aspects, one grave even having a game laid out in the center of it as if a game was in progress. [Hall, page 446].
The best-known and finest of the Viking-era Eddic poems, Völuspá, ‘Prophecy of the Seeress,’ ties a tafl game belonging to the gods with their ‘golden era,’ and the loss of it with the loss of their peace and prosperity:
- at tables played at home;
joyous they were;
to them was naught
want of gold,
until three came
The game is also tied to the beginning of a new world the seeress predicts will come after Ragnarök, the ‘doom of the gods:’
- She sees arise,
a second time,
earth from ocean,
the eagle flying over,
which in the fell
The Æsir are found
on Ida´s plain,
and of the mighty earth-encircler speak, and of the great-god’s ancient runes.
- Then again shall
be found in the grass;
those they had owned
in early days.
A.G. van Hamel argues that the word Thorpe translates as ‘wondrous,’ ‘undrsamligar,’ has more of the meaning of ‘eerie,’ ‘supernatural,’ ‘supremely magical.’ [van Hamel, pages 221 – 225]
One of the game’s most striking appearances in the Viking sagas, is in the ‘Saga of King Heidrik the Wise:’
A man named Gestumblindi had seriously pissed off one King Heidrek. The king sent him a summons to appear, to be reconciled with the king or to die, whichever he cared to choose. Gestumblindi didn’t like his chances for a judgment by the king’s ‘wise men;’ so he sacrificed to Ódin and asked him for help. Ódin appeared to him one evening and changed clothes with Gestumblindi, and told him to make himself scarce for a while.
Then, Ódin appeared before King Heidrek in the guise of Gestumblindi, saying he had come to be reconciled with the king. Rather than submit to the king’s councillors for judgment, the ersatz Gestumblindi opted for Door Number 2: a riddle contest with the king; and, if the latter failed to answer all the riddles that ‘Gestumblindi’ posed to him, then Gestumblindi was off the hook for any other ‘reconciliation’ trials. [Paraphrasing Tolkien, page 32]
“… Then said Gestumblindi:
(55) What thanes are they to the thing riding, all at one5 together; across the lands their liegemen sending seeking a place to settle? This riddle ponder, O prince Heidrek!”
“‘Your riddle is good, Gestumblindi,’ said the king; ‘I have guessed it. These are Ítrek and Andad, 6 sitting at their chequerboard.’
“NOTE 5 If the ‘thanes’ who ride to the ‘thing’ (meeting) are the kings in chess, one would not expect them to be called either sáttir or sextán (sixteen); but in fact it is not clear what the game is (tafl may mean any sort of board-game).
“NOTE 6 Ítrekr may have been a name for Ódin, and Andaðr or Ǫnduðr is found in a list of giant-names, so that it is just conceivable that the pieces in this game were thought of as representing a conflict between the gods and the giants. The solution in [manuscript] H is: þat er tafl Ítreks konungs.” [Tolkien, page 37] [‘That is the tafl game of King Ítrek’s’. My translation for that last sentence in English]
[In the saga, Gestumblindi goes on to ask two more riddles connected with tafl games.]
Ursula Dronke points out that in the Þulur (lists of names, synonyms and kennings mentioned in Eddic sources, found in Skaldskaparmal), Ítrek is identified with Odinn and Andaðr is the name of a giant, possibly meaning ‘Dead One.’ [Dronke (2), page 119]
The reference to Odin and Ítrek can be found on page 156 of Faulkes (2). The reference to Andaðr appears as ‘Ondud’ on page 156 of in Faulkes’ translation of Skaldskaparmal [Faulkes (2)] , and as Anduðr on page 111 of his Icelandic edition of the same [Faulkes (1)]. In his ‘Glossary and Vocabulary’ to Skaldskaparmal, Faulkes confirms on page 444 that Anduðr is a name for a male giant; and on page 235 he confirms that the word ‘andaðr’ means ‘dead.’ [Faulkes (4)]
Dronke argues that in the Old Norse world-view, there was “a symbolic link between tafl and the world’s fortune,” and that “the contending of Ítrekr and Andaðr at tafl and the association of dice with tafl re-enact, as it were, “the element of chance in the world’s fortune.” [Dronke (2), pages 120 – 121]
The earliest written legal sources indicate that heathen beliefs included “doing things to stones or filling them with magical power.” 
The early 11th century picture- stone GS 19, discovered in the church of Ockelbo, Sweden, displays scenes from the Sigurd legends, as well as a scene of two beings playing a tafl game.
07 GS 19 OCKELBO RUNESTONE
Andreas Nordberg argues that in Iron-Age Scandinavia, “the grave monument can be regarded as a passage or threshold, i.e. a ‘gateway’ between this and the Other World;” [Nordberg, page 36] and, that “the grave also seems to have served as a ‘door’ to the Other World for example on occasions when surviving relatives were trying to summon the dead to the world of the living.” [ibid, page 37]
In her deeply thoughtful article ‘Doors to the dead. The power of doorways and thresholds in Viking Age Scandinavia,’ Marianne Hem Eriksen makes the same argument for Viking Age graves. [Eriksen, pages 187-214]
In addition to Snorri’s mention of Orkney, the early 12th century Earl of Orkney, Rögnvaldr, mentions both tafl and runes as being among the nine skills he especially possesses:
Tafl em ek örr at efla;
íþóttir kannk níu;
týnik trauðla rúnum;
tíðs mér bók ok smíðir.
Skríða kannk á skíðum;
skýtk ok roek, svát nýtir;
hvártveggja kannk hyggja:
harpslátt ok bragþáttu.
(I am quick at playing board games; I have
nine skills; I forget runes slowly; the book is
a preoccupation with me and also craftsmanship.
I am able to glide on skis; I shoot and I
row so that it makes a difference; I am able
to understand both: harp-playing and poems.) [Jesch, page 156]
Snorri references the particular Orkney Island of Hoy in his re-telling of the Hjaðningavíg myth, perhaps because of its peculiar stony landscape:
08 BEACH AT HOY
“Beach at Hoy showing the unusual large pebble shaped stones (around half a meter to a meter long)” by https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:F%C3%A6 ; creative attribution, share-alike license
09 OLD MAN OF HOY “Old Man of Hoy” photo by https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Grinner ; creative attribution and share-alike license
In my next blog-post, on Gullveig and Heidr, I will come back to the question of the mechanics of ‘raising the dead.’
04. Other and Later Versions of the Hjaðningavíg Myth.
The Danish writer Saxo Grammaticus probably composed his version of the Hjaðningavíg early in the 13th century. He clearly had trouble with the motivation aspect of Hildr’s incitement to eternal battle, although he accepted it as being a traditional part of the legend. He makes Hildr and Hedin lovers, whose marriage was approved at first by Hildr’s father, Hǫgni. However, “certain slanderers” brought to Hǫgni “a trumped-up charge” that Hedin had “dishonoured” Hildr before marriage [Saxo, page 147 – 149], and this was what led to the battle of the Haddings, which, according to Saxo, took place “on the island of Hiddensee,” the island of the Mecklenberg coast, west of Rügen. [Saxo, Notes on Text, page 87]. Saxo states that: “According to popular belief, Hild yearned so ardently for her husband that she conjured up spirits of the dead men at night so that they could renew their fighting.” [Saxo, page 149]
Sörla þáttr eða Heðins saga ok Högna, ‘The tale of Sörli, with the story of Hedin and Hogni’
This late 14th century version of the Hjaðningavíg myth shows a Christian determination to stamp out once and for all any ideas the people may have had about pagan entities holding power over human lives and deaths. Short version: the battle is the fault of those pagan rogues, Odin and Freyja, who get their comeuppance when the Christians, led by the 10th century Norwegian King Olaf Tryggvason, show up on the island of Hoy, to put an end to that ‘eternal battle’ nonsense. Here’s the longer edition of the story: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C3%B6rla_%C3%BE%C3%A1ttr and Elizabeth Ashman Rowe does an excellent summary in her article [Rowe]. As Judy Quinn points out: “… it is hardly surprising that in the context of the accreted narrative tradition surrounding King Óláfr Tryggvason and his work to convert pagans into Christianity preserved in Flateyjarbók and elsewhere, traditions were reconfigured to counter any notions that magic could resurrect mortals, or that valkyries might have control over the timing of a man’s death…” [Quinn (2), page 811]
10 LOKI STEALS FREYJAS NECKLACE ‘Loki steals Freyja’s Necklace’ in Sörla þáttr eða Heðins saga ok Högna. Drawing by F.W. Heine
11 ODIN ‘Odin’ by Sir E. Burne-Jones, 1895
A century or so after Sörla þáttr was written, some Icelandic wit responded with Skíðaríma. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sk%C3%AD%C3%B0ar%C3%ADma Read as a clap-back to the clearly Christian-proselytizing account of the Hjaðningavíg, which bowdlerized and sought to destroy a legendary legacy from pagan times, Skíðaríma is a real scream.
‘Skíðaríma’ is the title of Theo Homan’s brilliant two-year study into the texts, with a complete Icelandic text, commentaries and English translation.
My paraphrase, along with quotes in italics from Homan’s translation: Odin drinks Skíði’s health, but cringes when the latter asks God to reward Odin, and then tells Skíði, a sneaky and thieving beggar, that he “must choose a woman.” He can have anyone except Odin’s “dear Freyja.” Skíði chooses “dear Hildur the slim,” Hǫgni’s daughter. Hǫgni is thrilled, and says “I cannot choose any better, for here we are dealing with an honourable man.” When asked her opinion of the marriage proposal, Hildur says: “I promised Hedinn that I would wait for him, but if my father asserts himself in this I will not despise Skíði.”
“Skíði stretched out a dirty hand. Then he was going to be wedded to Hildur. Odin offered him the land of Asia and all he wanted to choose. With this the hero acquired the title of king, experienced and swift in battle. Many gibed at the man: “Boorish Skíði seems to me.” Skíði hastily crossed himself, quickly with his paw. This tiding reached us: he got a blow on his snout. Heimdallur dealt him this blow with the fair end of his horn….” [Homan, pages 354 – 355].
At the end, it all turns out to be a dream; but, you’d have to be really obtuse, not to see the message behind the story of the sneaky and thieving – but Christian – beggar who dreamt that he was going to get everything he wanted just handed over to him, in the hall of the pagan gods.
I was howling with laughter by the time I’d finished reading the entire tale.
05 Was the myth of the Hjaðningavíg drawn from a foreign source?
There was for sure an older Greek legend of battle going on apparently ‘till the end of time,’ and that was the battle of Marathon, as related by one Pausanias, writing in the 2nd century A.D. (also known as C.E.) 
However, it would appear that the battle of Marathon was a ghostly one, albeit with ‘daemonic spirits,’ whatever those would happen to be.
Examples of the dead coming back to life to fight on until doomsday, are a lot harder to come by, not that this has stopped scholars from trying to scrounge one up.
One Irish battle often mentioned in connection with the Hjaðningavíg is ‘Cath Maige Tuired: The Second Battle of Mag Tuired:’ https://celt.ucc.ie/published/T300010.html (Also known as the second battle of Moytura or Moytirra.) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cath_Maige_Tuired
Michael Chesnutt quite rightly points out that: “Snorri’s tale [of the Hjaðningavíg] conflates several of the motifs for which Irish parallels have been mentioned. According to Cath Maige Turedh, the Tuatha Dé Danann [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuatha_D%C3%A9_Danann ] enjoy three magic advantages: their wizard can revive the dying; their weapons are “reborn overnight;” and their druidesses can create an army out of stones or other raw material. In Skáldskaparmál , we are first told that the princess raised the fallen. Later it is added that the men and weapons on the battlefield were turned to stone, only to regain their former shape next day. Snorri separates these statements, as though uncertain of their joint meaning. If the distinct elements found in the Irish version were allusively handled (or already confused) in his poetic sources, we can understand his bewilderment.”
[Chesnutt, page 132] That seems like a reasonable assessment, especially with respect to Snorri’s interpretation, writing in the 13th century, and it does sound like Snorri may have added a few things to the mix of the legend – something he was certainly not above doing.
However, there’s a problem with concluding from Chesnutt’s remarks, that the Irish legend gave rise to the Norse one in its essential elements, and that is Chesnutt’s own dating of the two legends. He goes on to say to say that “Cath Maige Turedh cannot be precisely dated, but in its present form it can be no older than the eleventh century. Most likely it is a product of the Middle Irish literary revival… of the eleventh or twelfth centuries…” [Chesnutt, pages 132 – 133]
And previously, Chesnutt had made it clear that he did not accept Snorri’s attribution of the Ragnarsdrápa as being from a 9th century poet. He said: “Háttalykill [
http://userpage.fu-berlin.de/~alvismal/4list.pdf ] and Skáldskaparmál are not our only witnesses to the Everlasting Fight motif in Norse literature, but they are certainly older than any other example. 37” His note 37 states: “With the exception, that is, of the Hjaðningavíg story in Saxo, which point of chronology stands somewhere between the two…” [Chesnutt, page 131]
However, more recently, Margaret Clunies Ross has set out a case for dating Ragnarsdrápa to the ninth century: “Most scholars have accepted that Rdr [Ragnarsdrápa] and Bragi’s poetry generally are of ninth-century date and pointed to such features as the sporadic observance of hendingar, [ cf https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alliterative_verse#Dr%C3%B3ttkv%C3%A6tt ] especially aðalhending [ https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/a%C3%B0alhending ] in the even lines, and the relatively straightforward word order, while acknowledging that both diction and metre show the dróttkvætt stanza to be already fully operational by his time (cf. de Vries 1957). However, Marold (1986b), following the earlier views of Sophus Bugge (1894), has associated Rdr with the reconquest of Northumberland by the Danes 980 – 1015 and thus disputes its early date.” [Clunies Ross (2), page 28]
With respect to the issue of the dating of the works that Snorri quotes in Skáldskaparmál, Alan Bernstein remarks: “The value of Snorri’s work is that he intended it to preserve older poetic (and mythological) traditions that he considered in danger of fading away under the influence of Christianity. Despite the lateness of his record, Snorri explicitly drew on older poems, the Elder, or Poetic Edda, that date, in some cases, from the ninth century. Because so many interpolations have been detected in the Poetic Edda, it is difficult to know how much of the surviving text actually dates back that far. Nonetheless, it is reasonable to assume that these poems are written testimonies of older, oral traditions. Regardless of the precise age of the written sources, it is clear that non-Christians of the Germanic language group attributed identifiable activities to the dead and to groups of the dead.” [Bernstein, page 124]
However, even if one accepts the later date of late tenth to early eleventh century, a transfer of the eternal-battle motif to the Norse myth from the Second Battle of Moytura would still seem to be highly unlikely, based on Chestnutt’s own dating of the latter legend.
Alan Bernstein considers that the Irish legend of The Death of Muircertach mac Erca http://www.ancienttexts.org/library/celtic/ctexts/muircertach.html https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muirchertach_mac_Muiredaig_(Mac_Ercae)
parallels that of the Hjaðningavíg. Although he does not try to date the Irish legend or to assess which of the two legends might have influenced the other one, he concludes: “…Yet the Germanic and Irish concepts have important features in common….
The parallel between Síd and Hildr is crucial. Both women have the ability to summon dead men in troops. [Bernstein, page 159]
“…In Irish tales such as The Death of Muichertach mac Erca, as in Old Norse, armies of the dead fight at the behest of women with supernatural powers….” [ibid]
However, in his own re-telling of the Irish myth, Bernstein states that:
“… At different times, she [Sín] summons more “troops,” who wage imaginary battles that gradually cause Muirchertach to lose his mind. Sín conjures up blue men who fight goat-headed men. Unable to see that they are imaginary, Muirchertach fights them all. Everyone he kills stands up again and continues to fight until he becomes exhausted (§21). Soon blue men fight headless men. Then Muirchertech fights stones, clods of earth, and bundles of grass (§23). As Muirchertach’s grasp of reality begins to slip, Cleitech’s priests intervene asking, “Why are you striking stones, O Muirchertach, who has lost his mind?” (§25) Seeing in Cleitech the possibility of help, Muirchertach confesses to him and receives communion (§26–28). For her part, Sín derides the priests, because “they sing only what is irrational” (§30). As Muichertach’s madness deepens, he remembers the prophecy that he will die as his grandfather did, not in battle, but in a fire (§35). He imagines himself attacked by the lineage descending from Niall of the Nine Hostages, legendary founder of the rival dynasty that ruled from Tara (§35). It will emerge (§49) that Sín’s loyalty is to this dynasty.
“Having charmed Muirchertach to sleep after a premonitory nightmare that accurately predicted that what she would cause him to believe would happen, Sín arranges the lances and spears of armies in battle at the doors and windows of the house, all pointing inward. Then, she formed a host of men around the fortress. She set fire to the house and came to bed with the king. He awoke and exclaimed correctly: “A phantom army has appeared to me burning the house on my head and massacring my people right up to the door.” Sín replied soothingly, and accurately, “No harm will come from that except that it has appeared.” (§§38–39). As the fire seems more menacing, Muirchertach (losing track of the fact that this is all appearance) asks, “Who is that all around the house”? (§40). Sín replies with the list of Muirchertach’s Tara-based enemies from his earlier nightmare (§35) and she adds that their leader has come “to avenge himself on you for the battle of Granar” (where, we learn later—§49—Muirchertach had killed Sín’s father). The text states objectively: “He did not know that it was not true and that there was no flesh-and-blood army surrounding the house” (§40). This is the final illusion. Believing himself surrounded by his enemies, his house ablaze, fated to die in a fire as his grandfather did before him, Muirchertach takes refuge in a wine barrel he believed to be empty and drowns. The house falls in on him (§42). Duaibsech dies of grief for Muirchertach (§46). After the funeral, Sín appears magically alongside the proceedings. It is clear she is of the sídhe, and the priests realize who she is. She bargains with them, a confession in return for paradise. In her confession she admits that she has exacted revenge for Muirchertach’s victory over her father and all his clan, for having exterminated the ancient tribes of Tara (§49). Then, Sín, too, dies of grief for Muirchertach (§49). Cairnech prays Muirchertach out of hell and into paradise (§51).” [Bernstein, page 157]
“Sín’s character fits the description in William of Auvergne. A beautiful woman discovered during a hunt when separated from his attendants attracts a man to his destruction. Sín’s ability to conjure up troops of combatants exemplifies the theme of the Ghostly Troop…” [Bernstein, page 158]
So we can see from Bernstein’s own remarks that the fairy Sín’s conjurations are the conjuring up of ghosts; she is most emphatically not said to be bringing men back to life; her conjurations are illusions. Until she tries to burn her victim up in a very real fire that she’s convinced him to think is just another delusion, of course.
It seems to me that, if anything, the Irish legend of The Death of Muircertach mac Erca is yet another attempt by medieval Christian propagandists to do away altogether with the valkyries as a legendary power. The Hjaðningavíg has become an illusory conjuration of ghosts, and if you believe in the legend, it can kill you.
More on Hildr and the Hjaðningavíg in my next blog-post.
NOTES and SOURCES:
 Gade, Kari, ed. ‘Háttalykill, p. 1001 – 1093,’ in Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages III Part 2 Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. p. 1001. Brepols, 2017
 Clunies Ross (1), page 77: “Although the story of Hildr had a long history in Germanic legend before the Viking Age, the extant Norse accounts were coloured by the social climate of that age, particularly in their depiction of Hildr herself who took on many of the aggressive, destructive, masculine characteristics of the dis. 7 This aspect of her character is most prominent in the earliest source, the ninth-century Ragnarsdrápa, and it is possible that the weakening of her hostile role in the later accounts came about through an acknowledged discrepancy between her aggressive part in the legend and the social norms which bore on abduction. From the latter point of view it was abnormal for an abducted woman to offer compensation to her wronged father, more unusual still for her to bring about her father’s death. In most cases of abduction recorded in Old Icelandic literature the woman avenges herself on her abductor, as in Ch. 48 of the Ynglingasaga, and not on her own kin; moreover, the settlement of an abduction case was a male affair, the woman’s male kinsfolk being the only ones entitled to avenge her theft.”
 For example, Judy Quinn in Women in the Viking Age, pages 128 – 30
 (i) From ‘An Icelandic Dictionary,’ page 473: “Ósk… ‘a wish…’ ‘óska-barn, n. a chosen, adopted child… óska-sonr, m. an adopted son… óska-steinn, m. a ‘wish-stone…’ óska-mær, f. the chosen maid, the name of the Valkyriur, who were the chosen maids of Odin, Og. 18; = eskimær, Fas. i. 118.”
(ii) From ‘Corpus Poeticum Boreale V1. Eddic Poetry,’ pages 311 – 312, in a translated passage from Oddrunar-gratr: “Then the sorrow-stricken maid [Ordrun] sat her down and began to tell over the tale of her wrongs and woes. ‘I was bred up in a king’s hall with every bliss, as men say. I enjoyed my life and the wealth of my father for five winters, as long as my father was alive. It was the last word he spoke, that stern king, ere he sunk in death. He bade them endow me with red gold, and send me south as wife to Grimhild’s son [Gunnar], and build a castle for Brunhild, saying she should be a wish maid [to be wooed for], for he said that no maid more renowned than she should ever be brought up on earth, save the Judge [Fate] cut her life short. Brunhild wrought at the broidery in the bower, she had [a wall of flame] about her, the earth quaked and the heavens above when Fafni’s slayer sought out the stronghold…” [Gudbrand Vigfusson (2)]
(iii) Judy Quinn also translates óska-mær as ‘wish-maid [valkyrie]’ and notes a provenance for the phrase as a term for valkyries in her note to that stanza: “29 The word “óskmær” to refer to a valkyrie is also found in Vlsunga saga ch. 2 and in the Upsaliensis text of Vluspá 25; see also Finnur JÓNSSON, Lexicon poeticum, s.v.” [Quinn (4), page 317 and Note 29]
 Quote by Clunies Ross is taken from page 26, Clunies Ross (2). The references she cites in that quote are listed in (2B):
Vries, Jan de. ‘Die westnordische Tradition der Sage von Ragnarr Loðbrók,’ ZDP [Zeitschrift für deutsche Philologie], 257 – 302.
McTurk, Rory. Studies in Ragnars saga loðbrókar and Its Major Scandinavian Analogues. Medium Ævum Monographs new ser. Oxford: Society for the Study of Mediæval Languages and Literature.
Smyth, Alfred P. 1977. Scandinavian Kings in the British Isles 850 – 880. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
 Sven B. Jansson gives a “relatively literal” translation of the Karlevi runestone stanza as: “Hidden lies the man whom the greatest virtues accompanied – most men knew that – executor of the goddess of battles – in this mound. A more honest battle-strong god of the wagon of the mighty ground of the sea-king will not rule over land in Denmark.” [Jansson, page 134] He argues that the “whole expression dólga Þrúðrar draugar’ “means something like “executor, performer of the goddess of battles,” i.e. warrior or war-lord.” [ibid, page 136]
Olof Erikson gives the same translation, prefaced with the dedication: “This stone is set in memory of Sibbe the priest, Foldar’s son. And his retinue set…” [Erikson, page 44]. Erikson gives a fascinating background to the stone, on pages 46 – 47 of his book, in support of his theory that the Karlevi runestone is a “Norwegian stone standing on Swedish territory bearing Norwegian or Icelandic texts and Danish runes… [It] does not fit into the same social milieu as the majority of our runestones. It was not raised by a mourning family but by a retinue and in the retinues of kings and chieftains there were people of all quarters.”
John McKinnell et al, however, translate side A of the runestone as: “‘This stone was set in memory of Sibbe … the good, son of Foldar, and his followers set on this island this (memorial to the?) dead.
“Hidden lies the man whom the greatest deeds followed – many know that –, the warrior / battle-revenant, in this mound. A strife-strong warrior will not rule in Denmark (who is a) more just man, over the land.”’ They interpret the expression draugr dolga Þrúðar as meaning “‘tree of the battle-Þrúðr’ = ‘warrior’ (Þrúðr is a valkyrie-name; kennings for men often compare them to trees; and further states that “…but draugr is also the term used for one of the walking dead, so the kenning also conjures up a picture of the dead man still ‘living’ in his mound.” [McKinnell (2), page 125]
 “Most of the provincial and national legal codes of Iceland, Norway and Sweden begin with so-called Christian or church laws… in the West Norse area – that is, in Iceland and Norway, whose legal systems were historically intertwined by heritage and politics – witchcraft, sorcery and magic play a major role in the Christian laws. By contrast, in East Scandinavia, witchcraft and related topics have only a minor part in the Danish church laws, and none to speak of in the church laws of the earliest Swedish provincial laws, appearing only after circa 1300. Typical of the earliest church laws in the West Norse area is the passage from Grágás that calls on citizens to trust in God and his saints and not to worship heathen spirits. It goes on to state that if one employs witchcraft, sorcery or magic (galldra eᚦa gørningar. eᚦa fiolkýngi), lesser outlawry is the sentence. The law then carefully specifies what it means by this sort of witchcraft (fiolkýngi): “if he says it, or teaches it, or causes it to be said for himself or his property (alt., livestock).” From the wording, the reference is apparently to a form of apotropaic charm magic, and thus the censure associated with it, motivated by belief in superstition. The law further defines the typology in effect: if by contrast, one uses a harmful form of witchcraft (fordæs skap), then full outlawry is called for. It is this kind of witchcraft, the law specifies, if through one’s words or magic illness or death is visited on people or livestock. In both cases, prosecution requires a twelve-man jury.” [Mitchell, page 159 – 160]
“…In legal writings the word [fordæða] was applied to those women, or more rarely men, who brought about the deaths of animals or humans by magical means. 50 In other contexts the word fordæða is associated with women whose magical powers are directed towards the destruction or debilitation of men…” [Clunies Ross (1) page 91].
 “N. 95 “In the Icelandic Commonwealth, two forms of outlawry were common: lesser outlawry (fjǫrbaugsgarðr), which was punishable by a three-year exile from Iceland and the confiscation of property, and full outlawry (skóggangr), punishable by permanent exile, the loss of property, the denial of inheritance rights to children, disqualification for burial in hallowed ground, and the deprivation of the law’s protection, that is, he could be killed anywhere by anyone.” [Mitchell, page 278]
“There were two forms of outlawry recognized in Old Norwegian law. Sometimes a sentence of outlawry would mean something like involuntary exile from which one might return on the payment of a series of heavy fines. This payment was called skógarkaup, or money paid for the right to return from the forest. The second form was final and irrevocable and was reserved for persons whose crimes were particularly odious and atrocious. The sentence extended, moreover, to the outlawed man’s property, which was immediately seized in the interest of the complainant and the higher authorities, which in the twelfth century meant the king.” [Larson, page 17]
 For example, Judy Quinn, who has made one of the most extensive investigations into the legend of the Hjaðningavíg: “Hildr’s motivation in fanning animosity between her male kin is not fully explained: she is described as acting duplicitously, offering her father atonement on her husband’s behalf and in the same breath declaring her husband ready and indeed, intent on fighting him…” [Quinn (05), page 112]. “Apart from the headstrong exercise of her own power over men, and over death, the verse gives little indication of Hildr’s motivation; Snorri’s prose account elaborates her situation to the extent that her abduction by Heðinn as war booty turns against both husband and father in as much as she wishes to draw them into open conflict…” [ibid, page 113]
A.H. Krappe states that the motivation of Hogni’s and Hedinn’s “quarrel” is “nowhere really convincing, and the sources do not agree.” [Krappe, page 142] He looks to one Karl Müllenhoff’s “hypothesis, according to which Hedinn and Hogni were originally twin brothers and a pair of Teutonic Dioscuri…” to explain “the sinister character of Hild in several of the sources…” [Krappe, page 143]
 From the ‘Betrothals’ section of the Grágás laws of early Iceland “K159: If a man takes a woman away under compulsion and means to marry her, his penalty for that is full outlawry, and so is theirs who are in the plot with him. His penalty is the same even if some other man abducts the woman for him and at his instigation, and so is theirs who went on the raid…” [Dennis et al, Laws of Early Iceland: Grágás II, page 78]
From ‘Gutalag, the Law of the Gotlanders:’
21/1520. Abduction, without the finesse of seduction, was usually regarded as a serious crime, not a normal precursor to marriage, and the punishment was frequently outlawry (cf. UL, VmL, and HL Äb 1 pr). The penalty imposed in GL for abduction of a Gotlandic woman was either the life or the wergild of the offender (vereldi hans), i.e. twenty-four marks of silver (three marks of gold) if the man were Gotlandic, otherwise ten marks of silver. The principle was usually, however, that the wergild of the victim applied, as in the following clause: if the woman were non-Gotlandic, the sum was ten marks of silver (her wergild), whatever the status of the man (cf. Delin 1926, 268 note 1). The sum payable to the general assembly from each fine was twelve marks, presumably in coin, although this is not explicit (cf. Delin 1926, 269 note 2). The abduction of a Gotlandic woman by a Gotlandic man was thus compensated much more generously than the three other possible cases. For other instances of compensation or punishment to some extent depending upon the status of the perpetrator of the crime, see Chapters 22/2628, 38/69, 51/34 and 59/6. Whether the general assembly received anything if the family of the woman chose the abductor’s life is not recorded. The form of execution was probably beheading, but GL does not state this (cf. Notes to 21/912, 63/1113).” [Peel, pages 130 – 131]
 Clunies Ross on the importance of showing courage in Old Norse society: “… The acceptance of compensation , even compensation as a valuable as a neck-ring12, was always a matter of some emotional and moral delicacy for the recipient. According to the ethic expressed in Germanic heroic literature, to accept material compensation from one’s enemy, however valid in law, was an inferior and less manly course of action than to take blood-vengeance. thus there was always the possibility that he took compensation from his enemy might lay hmself open to damaging insult. Such insults nearly always came from the party that offered the wergild [compensation] and their purpose was to arouse the wronged man to fight by implying that it was his lack of manly courage that led him to accept the compensation…” [Clunies Ross (1), page 78]
 mála f. female friend, confidante, one with whom one talks 108/5 [Faulkes (4), page 351]
 Quinn says the legend of the Hjaðningavíg is “mirroring the mythological fighting” between the warriors in Valhalla https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valhalla “which was to last until the final battle between Óðinn (supported by his divine and human forces) and the giants….” [Quinn (5), page 112] However, the Hjaðningavíg legend is not a mirror of the Valhalla myth; it’s a travesty. There is no chummy feasting after the fight, no valkyries bringing the fighters food and drink, no keeping company with the gods. Moreover, the warriors are clearly in some kind of limbo, neither really dead nor really alive, kind of like draugar, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Draugr except that the awakening of the men in the day instead of the night even turns the legends of draugar upside down.
 Ursula Donke comparing Gullveig and Heidr in passing in her notes to the stanzas 20 and 21. More on this in my next blog-post
 Legal sources re power to stones and other heathen beliefs. “People are not to do things with stones or fill them with magic power with the idea of tying them on people or livestock.” [page 39, Grágás I] Grágás (Grey Goose Laws), earliest Icelandic written law code.
“The Christian Laws Section was compiled and approved in the same Lawspeaker’s time [Guðmundr Þorgeirsson 1123 – 34], with the outside dates of 1122 and 1133 (cf. p. 50 and n. 95).” [page 05, Grágás I]
 “5. In the mid-second century, Pausanias evokes the dead of Marathon as he describes the grave of Miltiades. “Here every night you can hear the noise of whinnying horses and of men fighting. It has never done any man good to wait there and observe this closely, but if it happens against a man’s will the anger of the daemonic spirits will not follow him.”16 16 Pausanias, Guide to Greece. 1.32.1 (Harmondsworth, Eng.: Penguin, 1971), vol. 1, p. 93.” [Bernstein, page 119]
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Tolley, Clive.  Shamanism in Norse Myth and Magic, Volume Two: Reference Materials (FF communications, vol. cxliv, no 296) Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 2009.
Ulriksen, Jens. (2018). Ulriksen 2018 A Völva´s grave Offa 71 72-07-. 71/71 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/323989708_Ulriksen_2018_A_Volvas_grave_Offa_71_72-07-
Wrightson, Kellinde, Editor. Fourteenth-century Icelandic Verse on the Virgin Mary. Viking Society for Northern Research, University College, London, 2001 http://www.vsnrweb-publications.org.uk/Text%20Series/Marian%20poems.pdf …..
Völuspá: Two excellent, free online editions, together with facing-page English translations:
(1) Thorpe, Benjamin. http://www.germanicmythology.com/works/codexregiusvoluspa.html
(2) Bellows, Henry Adams. http://www.voluspa.org/voluspa.htm
plus, an edition from Hauksbók: http://www.germanicmythology.com/works/hauksbokvoluspa.html
… A comparison of the extant manuscripts: