|"My your ribs writhe with worms, may your barrow be an anthill where you rot, unless you speak with me, sons of Arngrim, all girt with battle-gear, keen blades at your sides and bright spears stained with blood. Death has made you cowards, but I have kin-right here. I come for the sword made by Dvalin. Why should dead hands hold the blade?"|
Hervor was a powerful, fearless Viking warrior woman who didn't take crap from anyone – living or dead – avenged her father's death with a magical sword, led Norse raiding parties in the pillage and plunder of unsuspecting civilizations, and proved to everyone under her command that she had bigger, brassier balls than any other Viking warrior in Norway.
Hervor's father was a great Viking warrior, and her mother's father was a head-splitting insane-o-bot berserker, so she didn't really have a chance to become anything other than a completely over-the-top assbeater. She was born not long after her father was gloriously slain in a Valhalla-approved bloody mess, dying with another warrior's sword lodged in his abdomen. Everyone who knew Hervor's dad knew that the guy was kind of a bloodthirsty murder-machine, so when the young girl was born her frightened neighbors all suggested that the best course of action might well have been to just take the baby out into the woods and leave it to be eaten by wild dogs. This didn't happen, and Hervor grew up pretty much exactly the way everyone was worried she might. She was tall, strong, and tough as hell, with reddish-gold hair and a sword arm that wouldn't quit. At a time when other girls in her village were learning how to knit and weave and paint pots and do other boring nonsense, Hervor was practicing horsemanship, archery, and swordfighting, routinely beating the neighbor boys into crumpled heaps or sending them running home to their mommies with black eyes and broken bones.
Hervor decided she didn't really want to settle down and be a bored housewife when she was obviously so adept at rendering grown-ass men unconscious with a few well-placed sword blows to the throat, so she decided to forgo the homemaker profession for a while and become a badass shieldmaiden instead. Now, I talk about the shieldmaidens briefly in my book (insert imperceptibly-subtle-yet-shameless self-promotion here), but the short version is that they were hardcore warrior-women who strapped on the chainmail, grabbed a spear, and spent the warm summer months sailing around on Drakkar longships getting their rape, plunder, and pillage on whenever the opportunity presents itself. I should note that I use the word "rape" here in the old-school manner meaning, "to seize or take away by force", rather than the more commonly-used definition, though I suppose you can never really be sure when you're talking about Vikings of any gender. Regardless of the verbiage, Hervor was really awesome at it, because she was so tough, daring, and charismatic that after the leader of her village's raiding party was killed in battle the other Vikings nominated her to take his place and lead them to wealth and victory.
Hervor didn't disappoint – she and her salty sea-dogs looted unsuspecting villages with the best of them, and she won honor and glory at the pointy edge of her blade. However, one thing was still really bugging the shit out of her: Her father was famous not only for cleaving people from head-to-groin with mighty sword-strokes, but for carrying an incredibly bitchin' epic-level +5 sword known as Tyrfing, and she wanted to get in on that action ASAP. Tyrfing was an insanely-hardcore weapon that, according to legend, had been constructed by the Dwerger in their magical subterranean fires of intense awesomeness. This Dwarf-forged sword had a hilt fashioned of solid gold, and was so deadly that so much as a nick from the blade was universally fatal. However, there's a catch – the blade was cursed. It was more bloodthirsty than a school of mutant man-eating Great Whites having a feeding frenzy in chummed-up water, and every time it was drawn from its scabbard it consumed a life – either in battle, or by driving the wielder insane and forcing him to slaughter one of his own friends. After Hervor's dad's death, the blade was considered so unlucky and dangerous that it was buried with him, presumably never to be used again. Hervor had other ideas. This kickass blade was her inheritance, and she certainly killed enough people to make it well worth its while, and she was determined to recover the heirloom. One day, in between raids, she and her crew sailed out to the island where her father was buried with the intention of recovering Tyrfing.
This is supposed to be a picture of the Dwarves handing Tyrfing over to Hervor's father,
though honestly I really have no damn clue what the hell is going on here.
So Hervor and her homeskillets arrive at this totally creepy island in the middle of the night, and the first things they notice are huge-ass fires and ghosts flying around all over the place like crazy. Every man under her command completely soiled their loincloths and refused to get out of the ship, fearing that the grounds were more haunted than Dracula's underwear. Hervor proved that she was the only Viking with the balls to set foot on the spooky island, jumping down, politely informing her colleagues that they're all total pussies, and then confidently walking over to the funeral mound where her father's corpse lay. Then, just to further demonstrate the fact that this sword-chucking chick wasn't scared of anything, she started yelling out insults and curses to call her dead dad back from beyond the grave. Dad responded by throwing up a huge curtain of fire outside his funeral mount, but Hervor just jumped through the flames and reiterated the fact that she wasn't fucking leaving without her sword.
That was it. She had now summoned the dead, and the next thing you know she was staring into the lifeless eyes of the ghosts of her father and uncles, all decked out in their full battle gear looking pissed. They tell her there's no fucking way she's getting Tyrfing – this thing is cursed as hell, and will bring doom and ruin on her family. Hervor could give a rat's ass. She tells this army of angry spear-toting ghosts that magical swords are no good to dead men, so fork that shit over before she has to start cracking poltergeist skulls together until they explode into protoplasm. Hervor's dad, understandably impressed with his daughter's moxie, reveals the blade – it's in a pit of fire, surrounded by angry ghosts who arbitrarily hate her. Hervor doesn't give a shit. She walks over, ignores the ghosts, sticks her hand in the fire, pulls out Tyrfing, gives everyone the double-middle-fingers, and goes back to her ship, only to find that her associates had already left her because they were pussies. The big, bad Vikings had watched from the shore when the fires and ghost activity became more epic, and ran for it like scared little bitches. Hervor found a way off the island (the sources aren't specific as to how), got back to her homeland, and continued her career as a war-band leader.
Hervor served as an inspiration for the Eowyn character in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy.
With Tyrfing at her side, Hervor became even more unstoppable in combat. In comic book terms, this weapon made her go from regular Jean Grey to Dark Phoenix, and it wasn't long before she was well-known as a murderous asskicker that lived to torment to coasts of Scandinavia, England, and Europe with her vicious sword of face-bifurcating. Of course, Tyrfing also did its thing and made her kind of become completely brutally insane. Like, one time she was chilling out playing dice with the King of Norway, when some douchebag started futzing with the sword, so Hervor freaked out and murdered the dude right in the middle of the royal throne room. I'd like to think that it was so hardcore that everyone clapped rather than arrest her, because if anyone can appreciate that shit, it's the Vikings.
Hervor eventually settled down, got married, and had a couple kids. Her son Heidrik inherited Tyrfing, and its bloodlusting effects seemed to affect him a lot more than his mom. Heidrik ended up murdering his brother and his foster son with it, and eventually died in battle surrounded by a bunch of dead Huns (Heidrik's own daughter, who was named Hervor after her grandma, also fought as a shieldmaiden in the battle and was killed in action). Heidrik married a princess, though, so his life wasn't all about agony and misery and being stabbed to death by Huns.
We don't really know what happened to Hervor after her son inherited Tyrfing. Some say she died in combat while fighting in a war of vengeance, and others claim she just grew old and died a peaceful, boring death at home. A later saga briefly mentions a mysterious Valkyrie named Hervor, so it's presumably also possible that this war-chief's awesomeness helped her ascend to semi-goddesshood. That would be pretty much super-kickass.
Hervor Junior dying amid some slaughtered Hunnic warriors.
The Lay of Hervor
The Poetic Edda
Barring-Gould, Sabine. A Book of Folklore BiblioBazaar, 2007.
Belloni Du Chaillu, Paul. Ivar the Viking Scribner, 1910.
Monaghan,Patricia. Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines ABC-CLIO, 2009.
Tilton, Lois. Written in Venom. Wildside, 2000.
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