THE DWARF SWORD TIRFING
SUAFORLAMI, the second in descent from Odin, was kin over Gardarike (Russia). One day he rode a-hunting, an sought long after a hart, but could not find, one the whole day. When the sun was setting he found himself immersed so deep in the forest that he knew not where he was. There lay a hill on his right hand, and before it he saw two Dwarfs; he drew his sword against them, and cut off their retreat by getting between them and the rock. They proffered him ransom for their lives, and he asked them then their names, and one of them was called Dyren, and the other Dualin. He knew then that they were the most ingenious and expert of all the Dwarfs, and he therefore imposed on them that they should forge him a sword, the best that they could form; its hilt should be of gold, and its belt of the same metal. He moreover enjoined, that the sword should never miss a blow, and should never rust; and. should cut through iron and stone, as through a garment; and should be always victorious in war and in single combat for him who bare it. These were the conditions on which he gave them their lives.
On the appointed day he returned, and the Dwarfs came forth and delivered him the sword; and when Dualin stood in the door he said, "This sword shall be the bane of a man every time it is drawn; and with it shall be done three of the greatest atrocities. It shall also be thy bane." Then Suaforlami struck at the Dwarf so, that the blade of the sword penetrated into the solid rock. Thus Suaforlami became possessed of this sword, and he called it Tirfing, and he bare it in war and in single combat, and he slew with it the Giant Thiasse, and took his daughter Fridur.
Suaforlami was shortly after slain by the Berserker [a] Andgrim, who then became master of the sword. When the twelve sons of Andgrim were to fight with Hialmar and Oddur for Ingaborg, the beautiful daughter of King Inges, Angantyr bore the dangerous Tirfing; but all the brethren were slain in the combat, and were buried with their arms.
Angantyr left an only daughter, Hervor, who, when she grew up, dressed herself in man's attire, and took the name of Hervardar, and joined a party of Vikinger, or Pirates. Knowing that Tirfing lay buried with her father, she determined to awaken the dead, and obtain the charmed blade; and perhaps nothing in northern poetry equals in interest and sublimity the description of her landing alone in the evening on the island of Sams, where her father and uncles lay in their sepulchral mounds, and at night ascending to the tombs, that were enveloped in flame, [b] and by force of entreaty obtaining from the reluctant Angantyr the formidable Tirfing.
Hervor proceeded to the court of King Gudmund, and there one day, as she was playing at tables with the king, one of the servants chanced to take up and draw Tirfing, which shone like a sunbeam. But Tirfing was never to see the light but for the bane of man, and Hervor, by a sudden impulse, sprang from her seat, snatched the sword and struck off the head of the unfortunate man. Hervor, after this, returned to the house of her grandfather, Jarl Biartmar, where she resumed her female attire, and was married to Haufud, the son of King Gudmund. She bare him two sons, Angantyr and Heidreker; the former of a mild and gentle disposition, the latter violent and fierce. Haufud would not permit Heidreker to remain at his court; and as he was departing, his mother, with other gifts, presented him Tirfing. His brother accompanied him out of the castle. Before they parted, Heidreker drew out his sword to look at and admire it; but scarcely did the rays of light fall on the magic blade, when the Berserker rage came on its owner, and he slew his gentle brother.
After this be joined a body of Vikinger, and became so distinguished, that King Harold, for the aid he lent him, gave him his daughter Helga in marriage. But it was the destiny of Tirfing to commit crime, and Harold fell by the hand of his son-in-law. Heidreker was afterwards in Russia, and the son of the king was his foster-son. One day, as they were out hunting, Heidreker and his foster-son happened to be separated from the rest of the party, when a wild boar appeared before them; Heidreker ran at him with his spear, but the beast caught it in his mouth and broke it across. He then alighted and drew Tirfing, and killed the boar; but on looking around, he could see no one but his foster-son, and Tirfing could only be appeased with warm human blood, and he slew the unfortunate youth. Finally, King Heidreker was murdered in his bed by his Scottish slaves, who carried off Tirfing; but his son Angantyr, who succeeded him, discovered and put them to death, and recovered the magic blade. In battle against the Huns he afterwards made great slaughter; but among the slain was found his own brother Laudur. And so ends the history of the Dwarf-sword Tirfing. [c]
Like Alf, the word Duergr has retained its place in .the Teutonic languages. Dverg [d] is the term still used in the north; the Germans have Zwerg, and we Dwarf [e] which, however, is never synonymous with Fairy, as Elf is. Ihre rejects all the etymons proposed for it, such, for example, as that of Gudmund Andreae, θέοη έργον; and with abundant reason.
Some have thought that by the Dwarfs were to be understood the Finns, the original inhabitants of the country, who were driven to the mountains by the Scandinavians, and who probably excelled the new-corners in the art of working their mines and manufacturing their produce. Thorlacius, on the contrary, thinks that it was Odin and his followers, who came from the country of the Chalybes, that brought the metallurgic arts into Scandinavia.
Perhaps the simplest account of the origin of the Dwarfs is, that when, in the spirit of all ancient religions, the subterranean powers of nature were to be personified, the authors of the system, from observing that people of small stature usually excel in craft and ingenuity, took occasion to represent the beings who formed crystals and purified metals within the bowels of the earth as of diminutive size, which also corresponded better with the power assigned them of slipping through the fissures and interstices of rocks and stones. Similar observations led to the representation of the wild and awful powers of brute nature under the form of huge giants.
[a] The Berserkers were warriors who used to be inflamed with such rage and fury at the thoughts of combats as to bite their shields, run through fire, swallow burning coals, and perform such like mad feats. "Whether the avidity for fighting or the ferocity of their nature;" says Saxo, "brought this madness on then is uncertain."
[b] The northern nations believed that the tombs of their heroes emitted a kind of lambent flame, which was always visible in the night, and served to guard the ashes of the dead; they called it Hauga Elldr, or The Sepulchral Fire. It was supposed more particularly to surround such tombs as contained hidden treasures.--Bartholin, Contempt. a Dan. Morte, p. 275.
[c] Hervarar Saga passim. The Tirfing Saga would be Its more proper appellation. In poetic and romantic interest it exceeds all the northern Sagas.
[d] In Swedish Dverg also signifies a spider.
[e] In the old Swedish metrical history of Alexander, the word Duerf occurs. The progress in the English word is as follows: Anglo-Saxon--thence dwerke;
A maid that is a messingere
And a dwerke me brought here,
Her to do socoúr.
lastly, dwarf, as in old Swedish.