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The Battle of the Goths and Huns

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The Battle of the Goths and Huns

Hlöðskviða or The Battle of the Goths and Huns is sometimes counted among the Eddic Poems. It has been preserved as separate stanzas interspersed among the text in Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks (chapters 13 and 14, the stanzas are numbered 1 to 32, after their arrangement within the prose). It is generally agreed that it was originally a poetic whole. The length of the preserved text amounts to 233 lines, constituting a fragment of a longer poem.

Heiðrekr, king of the Goths, had two sons, Angantýr and Hlöðr. Only Angantýr was legitimate, so he inherited his father's kingdom. Hlöðr, whose mother was the daughter of Humli, king of the Huns, and who was born and raised among the Huns, claimed half the inheritance, Angantýr refused to split evenly and war ensued, claiming first Hervör, their sister, then Hlöðr himself as casualties.

Stanza 1 lists peoples and their rulers:

Ár kváðu Humla
Húnum ráða,
Gizur Gautum,
Gotum Angantý,
Valdarr Dönum,
en Völum Kíarr,
Alrekr inn frækni
enskri þjóðu.
"Of old, goes the tale, did Humli
rule the Huns
Gizur the Geats
Angantyr the Goths
Valdar the Danes
Caesar the Walha (Romans)
and brave Alrek (possibly [1])
the English nation"

Valdar is named as a king of the Danes in Guðrúnarkviða II; Saxo Grammaticus has Humblus son of Danus, first king of the Danes, but Humli here is mostly identified with Attila.

After Heidrek's death, Hlod travels to Arheimar to claim half of the Gothic realm as his inheritance. In Hlod's demand (stanza 10) the forest on the boundary separating the Goths and the Huns, and a "holy grave" is referred to, apparently an important sanctuary of the Goths, but its background is unknown.

Hrís þat it mæra,
er Myrkvið heita,
gröf þá ina helgu,
er stendr á Goðþjóðu,
stein þann inn fagra,
er stendr á stöðum Danpar,
halfar herborgir,
þær er Heiðrekr átti,
lönd ok lýða
ok ljósa bauga.
the famous forest
called Mirkwood
there the holy grave
on the Gothic highway
that famous rock
on the banks of the Dniepr
half of the war-gear
that was Heidrek's
land and people
and bright rings.

Angatyr offers Hlod a third of his realm, and Gizur, the old foster-father of Heidrek's says that this is more than enough for the son of a slave. On Hlod's return to the Hunnic realm, his grandfather Humli is enraged at the insult and gathers the army of the Huns.

The poem ends with Angantýr finding his brother dead (stanza 32):

Bölvat es okkr, bróðir,
bani em ek þinn orðinn;
þat mun æ uppi;
illr er dómr norna.
We are cursed, brother,
I am become your slayer
it is yet again true
cruel is the decree of the Norns (Fates).

See also

  • Widsith, the 9th century Anglo-Saxon poem, contains some names that align with the names given in the Hlöðskviða
  • Oium, the Gothic realm in Scythia, overrun by the Huns in the 370s
  • Battle of Nedao, the historical battle where the Goths defeated the Huns in 454


  • The Battle of the Goths and the Huns. Christopher Tolkien, in Saga-Book (University College, London, for the Viking Society for Northern Research) 14, part 3 (1955-6), pp. [141]-63.

External links

  • Hlöðskviða in Old Norse from «Kulturformidlingen norrøne tekster og kvad» Norway.
  • translation at Northvegr

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