“Helgi Hungingsbane’s Kviða”: My First Published Old Norse Translation

The language that led me to fall in love with old literature for real and to finally go to university (because you couldn’t just Google how to read it back then!) is Old English. And lots of my work over the last decade has been on this medieval Germanic language. But I was only in my first Old English class at UW-Madison in 2005 because I wasn’t able to take the Old Norse class that term. After experiencing Old English in the classroom, I went that route and rarely looked back.

Every once in awhile I did look back, though, and remember wanting to devote my life to the study, translation, and (yes) performance of Old Norse verse. Well, that train left the station, but over the summer I started reading the Old Norse Elder Edda again, and felt compelled to finally try my hand at translating something.

Given my recent fixation on burial mounds and effigy mounds and mounds of all sorts, I decided to translate the final scene of the second “kviða” (or “lay”) of Helgi Hundingsbane, a member of the Volsung line. It’s a long, knotty story, but all you need to know is that Helgi marries Sigrun and is then killed. In the scene I translate, Helgi has been buried in a mound and Sigrun can’t let his memory go, so she meets him at the mound for a little talk—no big deal.

You can read it here; thanks for stopping by!

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