“The Lay of Hamthir” enjoys the sad distinction of having been handed down in a more fragmentary condition than any other of the longer Eddic lays. A number of stanzas are certainly missing, others clearly interpolated, and still other under suspicion. And the genuine material left has needed much surgery and sympathetic treatment to make it at all intelligible. Nevertheless, enough is discernible to recognize that it brought the great Eddic cycle of heroic songs to a worthy, as well as a logical, conclusion. In its original form it must have been a masterpiece of dramatic construction, with every episode furthering the action of the poem.
As it happens, Hamðismál is also the one poem in the Collection which unquestionably goes back to recorded history. The Gothic historian Jordanes (sixth century A.D.) in his Getica reports that Hermanaricus, King of the Ostrogoths, had a woman by the name of Sunilda bound to wild horses and torn to pieces because of the treachery of her husband, and that in revenge therefor her two brothers, Sarus and Ammius, fell upon him and wounded him. Legend, we may suppose, explained the king’s otherwise inexplicable, cruel deed as one done in a jealous rage; it made Sunilda his wife and invented the figure of his son Randvér, who seduced her and was hanged by the king. Connection with the Burgundian cycle of legends was effected, presumably in the North, by making Svanhild the daughter of Guthrún by Sigurth.
As pointed out above, several stanzas of “Guthrún’s Lament” seem to have originally belonged to this lay and are fairly considered in this connection. As a whole, they and the following stanzas breathe a sinister power equal to the best in Eddic poetry: the unwilling brothers dashing away to their doom—snorting with rage, their wild laugh yet ringing in their ears — a doom which they seal by venting their wrath on their half brother Erp. And the scenes in Jormunrekk‟s hall, however fragmentary, are full of energy and passion.
The measure is, variously, málaháttr and fornyrðislag, which, in itself, constitutes a sufficient reason for considering the lay as it stands a composite of two or more older, fragmentary poems. That another lay existed seems to follow from the fact that the Vǫlsunga saga (Chap. 42) paraphrases only the fornyrðislag stanzas (quoting St. 28, ll. 1-2), and none of the málaháttr stanzas from which, indeed, the version of the saga differs considerably.
The origin of the lay is sought, with little conclusiveness, in Norway. Both vocabulary and style point to the tenth century or earlier. The skald Bragi (early ninth century) devotes four spirited stanzas of his Ragnarsdrápa to the attack and slaying of Jormunrekk by Hamthir and Sorli; but it is impossible to decide which of the two poems is the earlier.
 However, dawn is the grief only of the swart alfs — the dwarfs — and of the giants whom it transforms into stone. Indeed, the sun is called “fair wheel” by the alfs (Alvíssmál, St.16). The whole stanza is generally regarded as spurious.
 Supplied after Grundtvig‟s suggestion from the similar third stanza of Guðrúnarhvǫpt.
 Of evergreen trees (?). Compare with Hávamál, St.50.
 Kenning for “fire.” Compare with Vǫluspa, St.51.
 It is precisely Guthrún‟s tragic fate that she may not ever heed this counsel. See Guðrúnarkviða II, St.10.
 Stanzas 6-8 of Guðrúnarhvǫpt most likely contain material originally from Hamðismál.
 This stanza is transposed here, following Grundtvig and Bugge, from its position in the original after St.23. Its text is badly mutilated, and the translation hence largely conjectural.
 As they can now, in their charmed armor: the Vǫlsunga saga, Ch.42, tells how Guthrún gave her sons armor impenetrable to iron, but bade them “not to damage it by stones and other large matter” as else it were their death.
Vǫlsunga saga, Ch.42, continues: “Then they went on their way, and but a little while after, Hamthir slipped and put his hand out and said: „Erp may have said sooth — I would have fallen if my hand had not steadied me.‟ Soon after, Sorli stumbled, but put forth his foot and thus steadied himself. He said: „I would have fallen now if both my feet had not steadied me.‟ Then both said that they had done ill by their brother.”
 They have arrived in the confines of Jormunrekk’s castle and now change their garments, arraying themselves in the magic (silken) armor.
 Randver: he is called thus in Saxo, Gesta Danorum, which also tells this story. Here the original has “sister’s son,” which is quite in keeping with the Old Norse way of thinking: he is Svanhild’s stepson as the son of her husband.
 Kenning for “gallows.” “Wolf” was the designation of outlaws who had been proscribed and who were hanged wherever seized.
 Here, probably, not the white shield of peace (Helgakviða Hundingsbana I, St.33, note) but a shield made of the white wood of the linden tree.
 In Stanza 4 of the skald Bragi’s Ragnarsdrápa (ninth century) Jormunrekk is described as falling prone into the ale on the floor with which is mixed his own blood.
 According to the account of Skáldskaparmál, Ch.39, Guthrún advised them to attack Jormunrekk at night in his bed: “was Sorli and Hamthir to hew off his hands and feet, but Erp his head.” They follow her advice, but Erp is lacking at the critical moment to perform his share.
 The (ever blazing) hearth fire in the middle of the hall. See Rígsþula, St.2, note, and Atlakviða, St.1, note. The two last lines translated after Neckel’s conjectural restoration.
 In the Vǫlsunga saga, Ch.42, it is Óthin who gives the counsel to stone the brothers.
 Thy mouth (Compare with Hávamál, St.134). Is a stanza lacking here in which Hamthir had taunted the king with their invulnerability to iron?
 As their half brother and thus being of their own kin, he ought to have been inviolable.
 This stanza is ljóðaháttr and with adhortative content is generally supposed to be an interpolation.