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Literature / Sorli's Tale

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Panel from an image stone at Stora Hammars, Gotland, possibly depicting the battle of Hedin and Hogni.

"Sorli's Tale, or the Saga of Hedin and Hogni" (Sörla Þáttur eða Héðins Saga ok Högna) is an Old Norse mythological tale from the Book of Flatey (c. 1390 AD).

As Freyja takes a walk through the streets of Asgard, she sees four dwarfs forging a necklace. Freyja falls in love with the necklace and asks the dwarfs to sell it to her. The dwarfs are ready to do that, but not for money. And four nights later, Freyja walks away with the necklace.

But Freyja's lover King Odin finds out all about the deal, and forces his henchman Loki to steal the necklace. Freyja asks Odin to give it back, and is called out for her sinful bargain. But Odin is willing to forgive and return the necklace if Freyja promises to fulfill his challenge as a punishment: She must arrange for two glorious mortal kings to meet each other in a battle that will last forever.

"Sorli's Tale" is a major case of a non-indicative title: The episodes that deal with the exploits of the sea-king Sorli and his feud with king Hogni are included mainly to introduce king Hogni. The real focus of the tale is the never-ending battle between kings Hedin and Hogni, a myth also told in "Skaldskaparmal" in Prose Edda and book 5 of Gesta Danorum.

The tale takes some liberties with the Eddic version of Norse mythology and probably welds myths that were not previously connected to each other. To wit, Loki stealing Freyja's necklace is probably derived from Loki's theft of the Brisingamen mentioned in the Prose Edda, although only here it is linked with the Everlasting Battle, and the necklace in the "Tale of Sorli" is not identified as the Brisingamen.

Available in translations by Magnússon/Morris (1875; pdf file), Nora Kershaw (1921), and Peter Tunstall (2005).


  • Curse Escape Clause: Odin stipulates that the everlasting battle can be ended if a Christian warrior kills the combatants, as they will not return to life after that.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: Hedin asks Ivar Gleam to kill him and his warriors, because only when a Christian kills them they will be free from the spell that forces them to fight, die and come to live again every day.
  • Jerkass Gods: The Norse gods are portrayed quite unfavorably in this tale, with Freyja as a floozie who sleeps with four dwarfs in exchange for a necklace, Odin as her jealous sugardaddy, and Loki as Odin's conniving lackey. Neither of them shows any qualms to destroy mortal lives as part of a sick bargain to sort out their own conflicts.
  • Slut-Shaming: Odin shames his concubine Freyja for sleeping with four dwarfs in exchange for a necklace.