hæmd (OSw) hævnd (ODan) hemd (OGu) hefnd (ON) noun

Revenge was mainly allowed in cases of killing, other bodily injury and adultery (the latter supposedly the only legal cause for revenge in ODan). In OIce Grg and ONorw FrL it also applied to insults. Only an actual offender could be the legal target of revenge (OIce Js; OSw DL, HL, SdmL, UL, VmL, ÖgL), and OGu GL and OSw ÖgL allowed revenge on women, which was explicitly prohibited, along with ‘learned men’, in ODan JyL. Revenge was prohibited when breaching a promise of immunity or an agreed settlement (ODan JyL; ONorw FrL; OSw DL, HL, SdmL, UL, VmL, YVgL, ÄVgL, ÖgL), an oath, a testimony or a legal indictment (OSw HL, SdmL, UL, VmL, ÖgL). It was also prohibited for avoidance of a legal punishment or compensation (ODan ESjL, JyL; OSw YVgL, ÄVgL, ÖgL), and as an act of enmity (OSw SdmL, VmL) or for accidents (OSw YVgL), or if death occurred later than a year after a wounding (OSw SdmL, VmL). Most OSw laws explicitly described these acts of revenge as violations of the king’s sworn peace (OSw eþsöre), the peace (OSw friþer) or as an unatonable crime (OSw urbotamal). OIce Js and ONorw FrL state that anyone who took vengeance for an unatonable criminal became themselves an unatonable criminal. The injured party was sometimes allowed to choose between revenge and fine/compensation (OSw HL, SdmL, UL, VmL), while ODan JyL explicitly denied the victim of theft the possibility of hanging his own thief. Occasionally hæmd referred to a legal punishment by the king (OSw SdmL, UL). Although there are more attestations of the word from East Norse laws, revenge is presumed to have been more widespread, in the West than in the East, and the examples above include provisions expressed with the verb hævne (ODan)/hefna (ON)/hæmna (OSw).

revenge ODan ESjL 3
ODan JyL 2
ODan VSjL 86
OGu GL A 11, 14
OSw HL Kgb
OSw KrL Add
OSw SdmL Conf, Kgb
OSw UL StfBM, Kgb (table of contents only)
OSw VmL Kgb (table of contents only)
OSw YVgL Add

vengeance ODan ESjL 2
OIce Mah 21

KLNM s.v. hämnd

  • ‘hæmd’. A Lexicon of Medieval Nordic Law.

  • http://www.dhi.ac.uk/lmnl/nordicheadword/displayPage/2406