From Iceland — Helgakviða Hundingsbana: Poems of Helgi, Hundingur’s Slayer

Helgakviða Hundingsbana: Poems of Helgi, Hundingur’s Slayer

Published October 21, 2019

Grayson Del Faro
Photo by
Lóa Hlín Hjálmtýsdóttir

In this series, I illuminate the individual poems of the Edda—that most famous, epic masterpiece of Icelandic literary tradition—with humour, vulgarity, and modern realness. If you reading this and thinking, “What the fuck is the Edda?” you should start by reading my first recap of the Edda, chock-full of helpful context and shameless attitude. Or you can just shut up and read on.

As you probably didn’t know, only half of the Poetic Edda is about the Norse gods. The other half is about the legendary heroes of Europe. The three heroic poems are all about a dude named Helgi. Well, they might actually be two different Helgis but their names and stories are so similar that whether they were one person or two different people is basically irrelevant. Kinda like the Kardashians. Same story, same face, same stupid alliterative name? Helgi or Kardashian, I can’t tell any of them apart!

Hundingur’s humdinger

Okay, so Helgi’s dad is a king and he has beef with another king called Hundingur. Hundingur sends some dudes to attack Helgi at his house, so he disguises himself as a maid and pretends to be working. One of the dudes is named – and I shit you not – Blindur (literally “blind”) and he’s like, “Welp, no Helgi here! But look at that freaky maid busting the shit out that grindstone lol!” Then they leave. Helgi escapes thanks to the timeless art form of drag queenery and kills Hundingur like nbd. This is how he gets the nickname “Hundingur’s Slayer,” which sounds way better in Icelandic.

Then one day he’s just chillin’ on the beach with his squad, eating some raw meat when Sigrún flies right up to them. Sigrún is a valkyrie, which were supernatural women who flew around watching battles because they got off on violence. Sigrún’s like, “Hey there, mister. I see you’re splattered with blood. Is that just from your steak or were you, like, you know, in a sexy battle?”

And Helgi was like, “Aw, yeah. I mean I just like low-key killed King Hundingur.” Then Sigrún says, “Lol I know, I actually saw the whole thing—and I liked it.” At this point she probably licks her lips seductively and then flies off.

Highway to Helgi

So here’s the problem. Sigrún is betrothed to some random loser who probably even cooks his meat. So Helgi invades the shit out of that dude’s kingdom, killing mostly everybody. Sigrún is just floating around checking out the corpses when she sees her fiancée/loser on his last breath. She’s all, “Ew, gross. I’m not gonna marry you because you’re literally dying.” Then she marries Helgi and they have kids.

Here’s the twist! They do not live happily ever after. Some dude borrows a spear from Óðinn and shanks Helgi. Sigrún is all sad and stuff until one day Helgi comes back from the afterlife, freezing cold and soaking wet. She asks why he’s so nasty and he says that every tear she’s cried has fallen onto him. Okay, that’s actually pretty fucking cute. They spend one night together and then he leaves. Then Sigrún is sad forever and dies.

Morals of the story: 1. The Kardashians are all the same person. 2. Love is cruel.

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