Hjorleif the women-lover

Text: Marit Synnøve Vea

King Augvald had a son called Josur, who in turn had a son called Hjor. It is said that Hjor was a powerful king who fell sick and died and was buried in the county of Rogaland.

When Hjor died, his son (*1)Hjorleif/Hjørleiv, nicknamed the woman-lover, became king and must at some point have conquered parts of Hordaland. The story goes that he also ruled over a kingdom in Denmark.

Hjorleif – married to three women at once
Hjorleif first married Æsa, the daughter of Eystein, the Earl of Valdres. Hjorleif was known to be generous and his wealth gradually dwindled. He therefore commissioned an especially good ship to be built in which to sail to Bjarmeland in Siberia, probably in order to hunt for walrus, which was in demand. Half’s saga relates that there were 90 men on board the ship.

On his way to Bjarmeland, Hjorleif stopped at the island Njardøy outside Naumdalen. Here he met Hild the Slender, daughter of Hogne the Wealthy. Hjorleif married Hild and she and her brother Solve sailed with Hjorleif on the ship as it travelled further north.

When Hjorleif returned home from his expedition to Bjarmeland, Æsa was not happy to find that he had married Hild. But two queens were not enough for Hjorleif: on another voyage to Denmark, he caught sight of Ringja, daughter of Kong Reidar of Sjælland. Hjorleif proposed to her, and her father accepted.

But it happened that Ringja became ill and died on the voyage home. The crew laid her in a coffin which they threw into the sea, and the coffin was washed ashore in her father’s land. Here she was found by her brother Heri, who thought that Hjorleif had killed his sister.

The merman’s prophesy
That same autumn, two of Hjorleif’s men happened to catch a merman (Old Norse hafsmaðr) while they were fishing. They brought the merman to King Hjorleif.

While the merman was in the living room, two of Hjorleif’s servants snuffed the candles while they were wrestling and the light went out. This caused Hild to spill beer on Æsa’s cloak. Hjorleif hit Hild, but she told him it was the fault of the dog that was lying on the floor. So then, Hjorleif hit the dog. This made the merman laugh and when the king asked why he was laughing, the merman answered: “Because you are stupid – both these two will save your life.” And he would say no more.

Hjorleif promised to take the merman out to sea again. Before they released him into the water where he had been caught, the merman warned Hjorleif that Reidar would come to avenge his daughter.

The Danish king attacks Hjorleif
Hjorleif sent out messengers to gather his army, but King Reidar arrived at night with a large number of men and surrounded King Hjorleif’s court. Hjorleif was forewarned by the barking of his dog Floke, who never barked unless something bad was about to happen to the king. Hjorleif therefore managed to escape, but his manor was set on fire and King Reidar was able to sail away with much booty and both Hjorleif’s wives.

Æsa betrays Hjorleif and Hild saves him
The same autumn, Hjorleif secretly sailed to King Reidar’s court in Denmark with a single ship and crept into the room where the women were sleeping. But there he only found Æsa, who took the opportunity of giving him away.

On Æsa’s suggestion, Hjorleif was hung by the straps of his shoes by the fireplaces in the king’s hall. While Hjorleif was hanging close to the fire, sat Reidar’s bodyguards drinking and Reidar sat in the high seat with Æsa on his lap. Nobody noticed as Hild managed to throw beer over the flames and then cut the straps that bound Hjorleif so that he was free. Hjorleif then killed Reidar and commanded Hild’s brother Solve to rule Reidar’s Danish kingdom. He then returned home to Norway with his guards and two wives.

Folk at home wanted Hjorleif to kill Æsa for having betrayed him, but Hjorleiv sent her home to Valdres with the dowry she had brought with her when they were married, as was the custom when a couple divorced.

King Hjorleiv later died on a Viking raid.

Hjorleif and Hild had two sons. The eldest was called Hjørolv and the youngest Half – the noble hero king who is the subject of his own saga: (The Saga of Half & his Heroes).

(*1). In English Hjorleif’s nick- name is also translated as Hjorleif the Womanizer – Hjorleif the Ladies’ Man

Augvald’s family tree

Fornjot (Ymir)
Ægir – Kåre (Vind)-   Loge
 Gor – Nor –             Goe
Gard Agde
Augvald(ca 600 e.Kr.?)
Hjør Jøsurson
  Hjørleiv den kvinnekjære
Hjør Halvson
(Flein Hjørson)
(Hjør Fleinson)
Geirmund og Håmund Heljarskinn (Landnåmsmenn på Island)