In chapter 27 of the Saga of the Völsungs, Brynhild brags of having been in battles with a king of Greeks:

She answered in heavy mood from her seat, whereas she sat like unto swan on billow, having a sword in her hand and a helm on her head, and being clad in a byrny, "O Gunnar," she says, "speak not to me of such things unless thou be the first and best of all men; for then shall thou slay those my wooers, if thou hast heart thereto; I have been in battles with the king of the Greeks, and weapons were stained with red blood, and for such things still I yearn."

"Chapter 20", The Story of the Volsungs, translated by William Morris and Eirikr Magnusson

Is this Brynhild's way of saying she has battled legendary opponents in far away lands, or could it be a more specific reference? Given that Brynhild's brother King Atli is identified with Attila the Hun, could this perhaps be a reference to Attila's campaigns against the Eastern Roman Empire?

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    She was not fighting the king of the Greeks, she sais: “Eg var í orrostu með Garðakonungi” (“I was fighting the king of the Garðar”). Garðar means “settlements”, and in this context it probably refers to Garðaríki (ríki meaning “kingdom”), which was the Old Norse name of the Varangian settlements in Kievan Rus’. So the translation “I have been in battles with the king of the Greeks” takes some freedoms… But the questions remains: who was this king she fought, and is it really a specific reference at all? Commented Nov 2, 2018 at 20:57

1 Answer 1


What you are referencing is the oldest english translation of the Volsunga Saga, by Magnusson and Morris (1870), and it is very outdated. More modern versions (Finch 1965, Grimstad 2005) render Garðakonungi as "the king of Gardariki", i.e. the Varangian-Russian kingdom founded in the 9th century. Also, in Grimstad 2005, the sentence is translated as "I fought in battles along with the king of Gardariki". Hence, it seems that she was not in battle against the king of Gardariki, but rather alongside him.

Unfortunately, we cannot even use the Poetic Edda (on which the Volsunga Saga is based) as a cross reference to clarify this specific passage, as it corresponds to a gap of several missing pages in the Codex Regius (the only available source for most of the poems of the Poetic Edda) known as the Great Lacuna.

In any case, the reference to Gardariki is no doubt a later addition, since as you correctly pointed out by mentioning Attila the Hun, the saga refers to 5th century historical events, while Gardariki is a 9th century political entity.

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