The Icelandic tale known as the Hervarar saga contains the story of Gestumblindi and King Heidrek. The king is upset with Gestumblindi and wishes to execute him. Gestumblindi makes a sacrifice to the Norse god Odin, asking for his help. Odin arrives, pretends to be Gestumblindi and goes to meet the king. He then challenges Heidrek to a contest in wisdom: riddles.
Here are some of the riddles that Odin (as Gestumblindi) says to the king. Can you solve them?
After several more riddles, Odin/Gestumblindi says:
“Then tell me this
one last thing if you can,
if you are
of all kings the wisest:
What did Odin say
In Baldr’s ear
before he was raised on the pyre.”
King Heidrek says, “Only you know that, monster.”
And then Heidrek draws Tyrfing and slashes at him, and Odin changed into the form of a hawk and flew out through a window of the hall. But the king hacked after him and cut off his tail-feathers, and that’s why, to this day, the hawk has a stubby tail. But the sword fell on a retainer, who died instantly.
Odin said, “For that, King Heidrek, because you lunged at me and wanted to kill me, the lowest thralls shall be your slayers.”
After that they part.
You can read all the riddles and the rest of the Hervarar saga in this translation from northvegr.org or this version from the Viking Society for Northern Research. This second text and translation was done by Christopher Tolkien, son of J.R.R. Tolkien – both of them were very interested in this saga and used some of the names and ideas for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
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