Heiðrekr is a combination of the two Old Norse words: heiðr, meaning "honour", and rekr, meaning "ruler, king".
Heiðrekr was the son of king Hǫfund and his wife Hervǫr, a shield-maiden. Like his mother in her youth, he was ill-natured and violent. To amend this, he was raised by the wise Geatish king Gizurr, but this did not improve his disposition. One day, when his parents were having a banquet, Heiðrekr arrived uninvited and late at night, he started a quarrel which ended in manslaughter. His father, King Hǫfund, banished Heiðrekr from his kingdom, although Hervor did her utmost to soften Hǫfund's feelings against his son.
His father's advice
However, before Heiðrekr left, his father gave him some words of advice:
- "Never help a man who has betrayed his master.
- Never give peace to a man who has murdered his friend.
- Don't allow your wife to visit her family frequently, even though she insists on doing so.
- Never tell your loved one about your secret thoughts.
- If you're in a hurry, never ride your best horse.
- Never punish the son of a better man.
- Never break a promise about peace.
- Never have many thralls in your company."
Heiðrekr immediately decided never to follow his father's advice.
Hervǫr secretly gave her son the sword Tyrfingr as she bade him farewell, and his brother Angantýr kept him company for a while. When they had walked for some time, Heiðrekr wanted to have a look at the sword. Since he had unsheathed it, the curse the dvergar had put on the sword made him kill his brother.
After a while, Heiðrekr met a patrol moving a prisoner who was to be executed for murdering his master. He remembered his father's advice and resolved to buy the criminal. Then he continued his journey and met a patrol moving a scoundrel who had killed his friend. Likewise, Heiðrekr bought the man's life in order to disobey his father.
Soon, Heiðrekr arrived in Hreiðgotaland, entered the Gothic king Haraldr's service, and disposed of two rebellious jarls for him. This earned him half the Gothic kingdom and the king's daughter, Helga. Heiðrekr and Helga had a son who was named Angantýr after Heiðrekr's brother and grandfather. During the same time old King Haraldr had a son who was named Hálfdan.
Unfortunately, Hreiðgotaland was struck with bad crops and starvation. The goðar determined that they must sacrifice the most noble young man of the kingdom to Óðinn in order to restore good crops. Immediately, people started to quarrel about which of the princes was the most noble, and so they asked king Hǫfund of Glæsisvellir. King Hǫfund decided that it was Angantýr (his own grandson) who was the most noble prince. Hǫfund also told Heiðrekr to ask King Haraldr that in recompense for sacrificing his own son, he should receive half the Gothic army as his own. King Haraldr agreed to this.
However, when Hǫfund called for a thing in order to sacrifice Angantýr, Heiðrekr objected and said that Óðinn would be happy if instead of Angantýr, he received King Haraldr and his son Hálfdan. Then, Heiðrekr made a rebellion with his half of the Gothic army, using Tyrfingr to kill King Haraldr and his son. When his wife Helga heard the news, she committed suicide by hanging herself.
King of the Goths
Heiðrekr used his army to subjugate the Gothic kingdom and ruled with brutal force. He defeated Humli, the king of the Huns, and captured his daughter Sifka, whom he raped. When she became pregnant, she was sent back to her father's kingdom, where she bore a son who was named Hlǫðr.
Heiðrekr married Ólǫf, the daughter of Áki, the King of the Saxons. She often asked to go home to visit her family, and since Heiðrekr remembered his father's advice, he always gladly consented. This would turn out to be an unwise strategy, because one day he made the journey to Saxony in order to see his wife among her family. He found her in the arms of a blond thrall and immediately divorced her.
Instead, he married a girl from Finland who was named Sifka, like the Hunnic princess. One day, they were visiting king Hróðlaugr of Garðaríki. To oppose a fourth word of advice given by his father, he told Sifka a secret and asked her to swear an oath never to tell anyone. The secret was that he had accidentally killed King Hróðlaug's son in a hunting accident.
Naturally, Sifka immediately ran to King Hróðlaug and told him the secret, which caused King Hróðlaug to capture Heiðrekr and to kill all of his retinue. The two men who bound him were none other than the two culprits he had saved from the gallows.
When king Hróðlaug was about to burn Heiðrekr alive, someone broke the news that the prince was still alive and that Heiðrekr was innocent. Hróðlaug apologized and in recompense for Heiðrekr's losses he gave him his own daughter, Hergerðr.
Heiðrekr and Hergerðr had a daughter who was named Hervǫr, the shield-maiden, after her mother who had just died. This was the beginning of a time of peace for Heiðrekr.
During a voyage, Heiðrekr camped at the Carpathians (Harvaða fjöllum, cf. Grimm's law). He was accompanied by eight mounted thralls, and while Heiðrekr slept, the thralls broke into his tent, took Tyrfingr and slew Heiðrekr.
This was the last one of Tyrfingr's three evil deeds. Heiðrekr's son Angantýr caught the thralls, killed them and reclaimed the magic sword, but the curse had ceased.
- Henrikson, Alf (1998). Stora mytologiska uppslagsboken.
- Tolkien, Christopher (1960). The Saga of King Heidrek the Wise.
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