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The Story of the Volsungs (Volsunga Saga), with Excerpts from the Poetic Edda.

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The Story of the Volsungs
(Volsunga Saga),
with Excerpts from the Poetic Edda.

Originally written in Icelandic (Old Norse) in the thirteenth
century A.D., by an unknown hand. However, most of the material
is based substantially on previous works, some centuries older.
A few of these works have been preserved in the collection of
Norse poetry known as the "Poetic Edda".

The text of this edition is based on that published as "The Story
of the Volsungs", translated by William Morris and Eirikr
Magnusson (Walter Scott Press, London, 1888).

This electronic edition was edited, proofed, and prepared by
Douglas B. Killings (DeTroyes@EnterAct.COM)



Anonymous: "Kudrun", Translated by Marion E. Gibbs & Sidney
Johnson (Garland Pub., New York, 1992).

Anonymous: "Nibelungenlied", Translated by A.T. Hatto (Penguin
Classics, London, 1962).

Saxo Grammaticus: "The First Nine Books of the Danish History",
Translated by Oliver Elton (London, 1894; Reissued by the Online
Medieval and Classical Library as E-Text OMACL #28, 1997).


It would seem fitting for a Northern folk, deriving the greater
and better part of their speech, laws, and customs from a
Northern root, that the North should be to them, if not a holy
land, yet at least a place more to be regarded than any part of
the world beside; that howsoever their knowledge widened of other
men, the faith and deeds of their forefathers would never lack
interest for them, but would always be kept in remembrance. One
cause after another has, however, aided in turning attention to
classic men and lands at the cost of our own history. Among
battles, "every schoolboy" knows the story of Marathon or
Salamis, while it would be hard indeed to find one who did more
than recognise the name, if even that, of the great fights of
Hafrsfirth or Sticklestead. The language and history of Greece
and Rome, their laws and religions, have been always held part of
the learning needful to an educated man, but no trouble has been
taken to make him familiar with his own people or their tongue.
Even that Englishman who knew Alfred, Bede, Caedmon, as well as
he knew Plato, Caesar, Cicero, or Pericles, would be hard bestead
were he asked about the great peoples from whom we sprang; the
warring of Harold Fairhair or Saint Olaf; the Viking (1) kingdoms
in these (the British) Western Isles; the settlement of Iceland,
or even of Normandy. The knowledge of all these things would now
be even smaller than it is among us were it not that there was
one land left where the olden learning found refuge and was kept
in being. In England, Germany, and the rest of Europe, what is
left of the traditions of pagan times has been altered in a
thousand ways by foreign influence, even as the peoples and their
speech have been by the influx of foreign blood; but Iceland held
to the old tongue that was once the universal speech of northern
folk, and held also the great stores of tale and poem that are
slowly becoming once more the common heritage of their
descendants. The truth, care, and literary beauty of its
records; the varied and strong life shown alike in tale and
history; and the preservation of the old speech, character, and
tradition -- a people placed apart as the Icelanders have been --
combine to make valuable what Iceland holds for us. Not before
1770, when Bishop Percy translated Mallet's "Northern
Antiquities", was anything known here of Icelandic, or its
literature. Only within the latter part of this century has it
been studied, and in the brief book-list at the end of this
volume may be seen the little that has been done as yet. It is,
however, becoming ever clearer, and to an increasing number, how
supremely important is Icelandic as a word-hoard to the English-
speaking peoples, and that in its legend, song, and story there
is a very mine of noble and pleasant beauty and high manhood.
That which has been done, one may hope, is but the beginning of a
great new birth, that shall give back to our language and
literature all that heedlessness and ignorance bid fair for
awhile to destroy.

The Scando-Gothic peoples who poured southward and westward over
Europe, to shake empires and found kingdoms, to meet Greek and
Roman in conflict, and levy tribute everywhere, had kept up their
constantly-recruited waves of incursion, until they had raised a
barrier of their own blood. It was their own kin, the sons of
earlier invaders, who stayed the landward march of the Northmen
in the time of Charlemagne. To the Southlands their road by land
was henceforth closed. Then begins the day of the Vikings, who,
for two hundred years and more, "held the world at ransom."
Under many and brave leaders they first of all came round the
"Western Isles" (2) toward the end of the eighth century; soon
after they invaded Normandy, and harried the coasts of France;
gradually they lengthened their voyages until there was no shore
of the then known world upon which they were unseen or unfelt. A
glance at English history will show the large part of it they
fill, and how they took tribute from the Anglo-Saxons, who, by
the way, were far nearer kin to them than is usually thought. In
Ireland, where the old civilisation was falling to pieces, they
founded kingdoms at Limerick and Dublin among other places; (3)
the last named, of which the first king, Olaf the White, was
traditionally descended of Sigurd the Volsung, (4) endured even
to the English invasion, when it was taken by men of the same
Viking blood a little altered. What effect they produced upon
the natives may be seen from the description given by the unknown
historian of the "Wars of the Gaedhil with the Gaill": "In a
word, although there were an hundred hard-steeled iron heads on
one neck, and an hundred sharp, ready, cool, never-rusting brazen
tongues in each head, and an hundred garrulous, loud, unceasing
voices from each tongue, they could not recount, or narrate, or
enumerate, or tell what all the Gaedhil suffered in common --
both men and women, laity and clergy, old and young, noble and
ignoble -- of hardship, and of injury, and of oppression, in
every house, from these valiant, wrathful, purely pagan people.
Even though great were this cruelty, oppression, and tyranny,
though numerous were the oft-victorious clans of the many-
familied Erinn; though numerous their kings, and their royal
chiefs, and their princes; though numerous their heroes and
champions, and their brave soldiers, their chiefs of valour and
renown and deeds of arms; yet not one of them was able to give
relief, alleviation, or deliverance from that oppression and
tyranny, from the numbers and multitudes, and the cruelty and the
wrath of the brutal, ferocious, furious, untamed, implacable
hordes by whom that oppression was inflicted, because of the
excellence of their polished, ample, treble, heavy, trusty,
glittering corslets; and their hard, strong, valiant swords; and
their well-riveted long spears, and their ready, brilliant arms
of valour besides; and because of the greatness of their
achievements and of their deeds, their bravery, and their valour,
their strength, and their venom, and their ferocity, and because
of the excess of their thirst and their hunger for the brave,
fruitful, nobly-inhabited, full of cataracts, rivers, bays, pure,
smooth-plained, sweet grassy land of Erinn" -- (pp. 52-53). Some
part of this, however, must be abated, because the chronicler is
exalting the terror-striking enemy that he may still further
exalt his own people, the Dal Cais, who did so much under Brian
Boroimhe to check the inroads of the Northmen. When a book does
(5) appear, which has been announced these ten years past, we
shall have more material for the reconstruction of the life of
those times than is now anywhere accessible. Viking earldoms
also were the Orkneys, Faroes, and Shetlands. So late as 1171,
in the reign of Henry II., the year after Beckett's murder, Earl
Sweyn Asleifsson of Orkney, who had long been the terror of the
western seas, "fared a sea-roving" and scoured the western coast
of England, Man, and the east of Ireland, but was killed in an
attack on his kinsmen of Dublin. He had used to go upon a
regular plan that may be taken as typical of the homely manner of
most of his like in their cruising: "Sweyn had in the spring hard
work, and made them lay down very much seed, and looked much
after it himself. But when that toil was ended, he fared away
every spring on a viking-voyage, and harried about among the
southern isles and Ireland, and came home after midsummer. That
he called spring-viking. Then he was at home until the corn-
fields were reaped down, and the grain seen to and stored. Then
he fared away on a viking-voyage, and then he did not come home
till the winter was one month off, and that he called his autumn-
viking." (6)

Toward the end of the ninth century Harold Fairhair, either
spurred by the example of Charlemagne, or really prompted, as
Snorri Sturluson tells us, resolved to bring all Norway under
him. As Snorri has it in "Heimskringla": "King Harold sent his
men to a girl hight Gyda.... The king wanted her for his leman;
for she was wondrous beautiful but of high mood withal. Now when
the messengers came there and gave their message to her, she made
answer that she would not throw herself away even to take a king
for her husband, who swayed no greater kingdom than a few
districts; `And methinks,' said she, `it is a marvel that no king
here in Norway will put all the land under him, after the fashion
that Gorm the Old did in Denmark, or Eric at Upsala.' The
messengers deemed this a dreadfully proud-spoken answer, and
asked her what she thought would come of such an one, for Harold
was so mighty a man that his asking was good enough for her. But
although she had replied to their saying otherwise than they
would, they saw no likelihood, for this while, of bearing her
along with them against her will, so they made ready to fare back
again. When they were ready and the folk followed them out, Gyda
said to the messengers -- `Now tell to King Harold these my
words: -- I will only agree to be his lawful wife upon the
condition that he shall first, for sake of me, put under him the
whole of Norway, so that he may bear sway over that kingdom as
freely and fully as King Eric over the realm of Sweden, or King
Gorm over Denmark; for only then, methinks, can he be called king
of a people.' Now his men came back to King Harold, bringing him
the words of the girl, and saying she was so bold and heedless
that she well deserved the king should send a greater troop of
people for her, and put her to some disgrace. Then answered the
king. `This maid has not spoken or done so much amiss that she
should be punished, but the rather should she be thanked for her
words. She has reminded me,' said he, `of somewhat that it seems
wonderful I did not think of before. And now,' added he, `I make
the solemn vow, and take who made me and rules over all things,
to witness that never shall I clip or comb my hair until I have
subdued all Norway with scatt, and duties, and lordships; or, if
not, have died in the seeking.' Guttorm gave great thanks to the
king for his oath, saying it was "royal work fulfilling royal
rede." The new and strange government that Harold tried to
enforce -- nothing less than the feudal system in a rough guise -
-- which made those who had hitherto been their own men save at
special times, the king's men at all times, and laid freemen
under tax, was withstood as long as might be by the sturdy
Norsemen. It was only by dint of hard fighting that he slowly
won his way, until at Hafrsfirth he finally crushed all effective
opposition. But the discontented, "and they were a great
multitude," fled oversea to the outlands, Iceland, the Faroes,
the Orkneys, and Ireland. The whole coast of Europe, even to
Greece and the shores of the Black Sea, the northern shores of
Africa, and the western part of Asia, felt the effects also.
Rolf Pad-th'-hoof, son of Harold's dear friend Rognvald, made an
outlaw for a cattle-raid within the bounds of the kingdom, betook
himself to France, and, with his men, founded a new people and a

Iceland had been known for a good many years, but its only
dwellers had been Irish Culdees, who sought that lonely land to
pray in peace. Now, however, both from Norway and the Western
Isles settlers began to come in. Aud, widow of Olaf the White,
King of Dublin, came, bringing with her many of mixed blood, for
the Gaedhil (pronounced "Gael", Irish) and the Gaill (pronounced
"Gaul", strangers) not only fought furiously, but made friends
firmly, and often intermarried. Indeed, the Westmen were among
the first arrivals, and took the best parts of the island -- on
its western shore, appropriately enough. After a time the
Vikings who had settled in the Isles so worried Harold and his
kingdom, upon which they swooped every other while, that he drew
together a mighty force, and fell upon them wheresoever he could
find them, and followed them up with fire and sword; and this he
did twice, so that in those lands none could abide but folk who
were content to be his men, however lightly they might hold their
allegiance. Hence it was to Iceland that all turned who held to
the old ways, and for over sixty years from the first comer there
was a stream of hardy men pouring in, with their families and
their belongings, simple yeomen, great and warwise chieftains,
rich landowners, who had left their land "for the overbearing of
King Harold," as the "Landnamabok" (7) has it. "There also we
shall escape the troubling of kings and scoundrels", says the
"Vatsdaelasaga". So much of the best blood left Norway that the
king tried to stay the leak by fines and punishments, but in

As his ship neared the shore, the new-coming chief would leave it
to the gods as to where he settled. The hallowed pillars of the
high seat, which were carried away from his old abode, were
thrown overboard, with certain rites, and were let drive with
wind and wave until they came ashore. The piece of land which
lay next the beach they were flung upon was then viewed from the
nearest hill-summit, and place of the homestead picked out. Then
the land was hallowed by being encircled with fire, parcelled
among the band, and marked out with boundary-signs; the houses
were built, the "town" or home-field walled in, a temple put up,
and the settlement soon assumed shape. In 1100 there were 4500
franklins, making a population of about 50,000, fully three-
fourths of whom had a strong infusion of Celtic blood in them.
The mode of life was, and is, rather pastoral than aught else.
In the 39,200 square miles of the island's area there are now
about 250 acres of cultivated land, and although there has been
much more in times past, the Icelanders have always been forced
to reckon upon flocks and herds as their chief resources, grain
of all kinds, even rye, only growing in a few favoured places,
and very rarely there; the hay, self-sown, being the only certain
harvest. On the coast fishing and fowling were of help, but
nine-tenths of the folk lived by their sheep and cattle.
Potatoes, carrots, turnips, and several kinds of cabbage have,
however, been lately grown with success. They produced their own
food and clothing, and could export enough wool, cloth, horn,
dried fish, etc., as enabled them to obtain wood for building,
iron for tools, honey, wine, grain, etc, to the extent of their
simple needs. Life and work was lotted by the seasons and their
changes; outdoor work -- fishing, herding, hay-making, and fuel-
getting -- filling the long days of summer, while the long, dark
winter was used in weaving and a hundred indoor crafts. The
climate is not so bad as might be expected, seeing that the
island touches the polar circle, the mean temperature at
Reykjavik being 39 degrees.

The religion which the settlers took with them into Iceland --
the ethnic religion of the Norsefolk, which fought its last great
fight at Sticklestead, where Olaf Haraldsson lost his life and
won the name of Saint -- was, like all religions, a compound of
myths, those which had survived from savage days, and those which
expressed the various degrees of a growing knowledge of life and
better understanding of nature. Some historians and commentators
are still fond of the unscientific method of taking a later
religion, in this case christianity, and writing down all
apparently coincident parts of belief, as having been borrowed
from the christian teachings by the Norsefolk, while all that
remain they lump under some slighting head. Every folk has from
the beginning of time sought to explain the wonders of nature,
and has, after its own fashion, set forth the mysteries of life.
The lowest savage, no less than his more advanced brother, has a
philosophy of the universe by which he solves the world-problem
to his own satisfaction, and seeks to reconcile his conduct with
his conception of the nature of things. Now, it is not to be
thought, save by "a priori" reasoners, that such a folk as the
Northmen -- a mighty folk, far advanced in the arts of life,
imaginative, literary -- should have had no further creed than
the totemistic myths of their primitive state; a state they have
wholly left ere they enter history. Judging from universal
analogy, the religion of which record remains to us was just what
might be looked for at the particular stage of advancement the
Northmen had reached. Of course something may have been gained
from contact with other peoples -- from the Greeks during the
long years in which the northern races pressed upon their
frontier; from the Irish during the existence of the western
viking-kingdoms; but what I particularly warn young students
against is the constant effort of a certain order of minds to
wrest facts into agreement with their pet theories of religion or
what not. The whole tendency of the more modern investigation
shows that the period of myth-transmission is long over ere
history begins. The same confusion of different stages of myth-
making is to be found in the Greek religion, and indeed in those
of all peoples; similar conditions of mind produce similar
practices, apart from all borrowing of ideas and manners; in
Greece we find snake-dances, bear-dances, swimming with sacred
pigs, leaping about in imitation of wolves, dog-feasts, and
offering of dogs' flesh to the gods -- all of them practices
dating from crude savagery, mingled with ideas of exalted and
noble beauty, but none now, save a bigot, would think of accusing
the Greeks of having stolen all their higher beliefs. Even were
some part of the matter of their myths taken from others, yet the
Norsemen have given their gods a noble, upright, great spirit,
and placed them upon a high level that is all their own. (8)
From the prose Edda the following all too brief statement of the
salient points of Norse belief is made up: -- "The first and
eldest of gods is hight Allfather; he lives from all ages, and
rules over all his realm, and sways all things great and small;
he smithied heaven and earth, and the lift, and all that belongs
to them; what is most, he made man, and gave him a soul that
shall live and never perish; and all men that are right-minded
shall live and be with himself in Vingolf; but wicked men fare to
Hell, and thence into Niithell, that is beneath in the ninth
world. Before the earth `'twas the morning of time, when yet
naught was, nor sand nor sea was there, nor cooling streams.
Earth was not found, nor Heaven above; a Yawning-gap there was,
but grass nowhere.' Many ages ere the earth was shapen was
Niflheim made, but first was that land in the southern sphere
hight Muspell, that burns and blazes, and may not be trodden by
those who are outlandish and have no heritage there. Surtr sits
on the border to guard the land; at the end of the world he will
fare forth, and harry and overcome all the gods and burn the
world with fire. Ere the races were yet mingled, or the folk of
men grew, Yawning-gap, which looked towards the north parts, was
filled with thick and heavy ice and rime, and everywhere within
were fog and gusts; but the south side of Yawning-gap lightened
by the sparks and gledes that flew out of Muspell-heim; as cold
arose out of Niflheim and all things grim, so was that part that
looked towards Muspell hot and bright; but Yawning-gap was as
light as windless air, and when the blast of heat met the rime,
so that it melted and dropped and quickened; from those life-
drops there was shaped the likeness of a man, and he was named
Ymir; he was bad, and all his kind; and so it is said, when he
slept he fell into a sweat; then waxed under his left hand a man
and a woman, and one of his feet got a son with the other, and
thence cometh the Hrimthursar. The next thing when the rime
dropped was that the cow hight Audhumla was made of it; but four
milk-rivers ran out of her teats, and she fed Ymir; she licked
rime-stones that were salt, and the first day there came at even,
out of the stones, a man's hair, the second day a man's head, the
third day all the man was there. He is named Turi; he was fair
of face, great and mighty; he gat a son named Bor, who took to
him Besla, daughter of Bolthorn, the giant, and they had three
sons, Odin, Vili, and Ve. Bor's sons slew Ymir the giant, but
when he fell there ran so much blood out of his wounds that all
the kin of the Hrimthursar were drowned, save Hvergelmir and his
household, who got away in a boat. Then Bor's sons took Ymir and
bore him into the midst of Yawning-gap, and made of him the
earth; of his blood seas and waters, of his flesh earth was made;
they set the earth fast, and laid the sea round about it in a
ring without; of his bones were made rocks; stones and pebbles of
his teeth and jaws and the bones that were broken; they took his
skull and made the lift thereof, and set it up over the earth
with four sides, and under each corner they set dwarfs, and they
took his brain and cast it aloft, and made clouds. They took the
sparks and gledes that went loose, and had been cast out of
Muspellheim, and set them in the lift to give light; they gave
resting-places to all fires, and set some in the lift; some fared
free under it, and they gave them a place and shaped their
goings. A wondrous great smithying, and deftly done. The earth
is fashioned round without, and there beyond, round about it lies
the deep sea; and on that sea-strand the gods gave land for an
abode to the giant kind, but within on the earth made they a burg
round the world against restless giants, and for this burg reared
they the brows of Ymir, and called the burg Midgard. The gods
went along the sea-strand and found two stocks, and shaped out of
them men; the first gave soul and life, the second wit and will
to move, the third face, hearing, speech, and eyesight. They
gave them clothing and names; the man Ask and the woman Embla;
thence was mankind begotten, to whom an abode was given under
Midgard. Then next Bor's sons made them a burg in the midst of
the world, that is called Asgard; there abode the gods and their
kind, and wrought thence many tidings and feats, both on earth
and in the Sky. Odin, who is hight Allfather, for that he is the
father of all men and sat there in his high seat, seeing over the
whole world and each man's doings, and knew all things that he
saw. His wife was called Frigg, and their offspring is the Asa-
stock, who dwell in Asgard and the realms about it, and all that
stock are known to be gods. The daughter and wife of Odin was
Earth, and of her he got Thor, him followed strength and
sturdiness, thereby quells he all things quick; the strongest of
all gods and men, he has also three things of great price, the
hammer Miolnir, the best of strength belts, and when he girds
that about him waxes his god strength one-half, and his iron
gloves that he may not miss for holding his hammer's haft.
Balidr is Odin's second son, and of him it is good to say, he is
fair and: bright in face, and hair, and body, and him all praise;
he is wise and fair-spoken and mild, and that nature is in him
none may withstand his doom. Tyr is daring and best of mood;
there is a saw that he is tyrstrong who is before other men and
never yields; he is also so wise that it is said he is tyrlearned
who is wise. Bragi is famous for wisdom, and best in tongue-wit,
and cunning speech, and song-craft. `And many other are there,
good and great; and one, Loki, fair of face, ill in temper and
fickle of mood, is called the backbiter of the Asa, and speaker
of evil redes and shame of all gods and men; he has above all
that craft called sleight, and cheats all in all things. Among
the children of Loki are Fenris-wolf and Midgards-worm; the
second lies about all the world in the deep sea, holding his tail
in his teeth, though some say Thor has slain him; but Fenris-wolf
is bound until the doom of the gods, when gods and men shall come
to an end, and earth and heaven be burnt, when he shall slay
Odin. After this the earth shoots up from the sea, and it is
green and fair, and the fields bear unsown, and gods and men
shall be alive again, and sit in fair halls, and talk of old
tales and the tidings that happened aforetime. The head-seat, or
holiest-stead, of the gods is at Yggdrasil's ash, which is of all
trees best and biggest; its boughs are spread over the whole
world and stand above heaven; one root of the ash is in heaven,
and under the root is the right holy spring; there hold the gods
doom every day; the second root is with the Hrimthursar, where
before was Yawning-gap; under that root is Mimir's spring, where
knowledge and wit lie hidden; thither came Allfather and begged a
drink, but got it not before he left his eye in pledge; the third
root is over Niflheim, and the worm Nidhogg gnaws the root
beneath. A fair hall stands under the ash by the spring, and out
of it come three maidens, Norns, named Has-been, Being, Will-be,
who shape the lives of men; there are beside other Norns, who
come to every man that is born to shape his life, and some of
these are good and some evil. In the boughs of the ash sits an
eagle, wise in much, and between his eyes sits the hawk
Vedrfalnir; the squirrel Ratatoskr runs up and down along the
ash, bearing words of hate betwixt the eagle and the worm. Those
Norns who abide by the holy spring draw from it every day water,
and take the clay that lies around the well, and sprinkle them up
over the ash for that its boughs should not wither or rot. All
those men that have fallen in the fight, and borne wounds and
toil unto death, from the beginning of the world, are come to
Odin in Valhall; a very great throng is there, and many more
shall yet come; the flesh of the boar Soerfmnir is sodden for
them every day, and he is whole again at even; and the mead they
drink that flows from the teats of the she-goat Heidhrun. The
meat Odin has on his board he gives to his two wolves, Geri and
Freki, and he needs no meat, wine is to him both meat and drink;
ravens twain sit on his shoulders, and say into his ear all
tidings that they see and hear; they are called Huginn and Muninn
(mind and memory); them sends he at dawn to fly over the whole
world, and they come back at breakfast-tide, thereby becomes he
wise in many tidings, and for this men call him Raven's-god.
Every day, when they have clothed them, the heroes put on their
arms and go out into the yard and fight and fell each other; that
is their play, and when it looks toward mealtime, then ride they
home to Valhall and sit down to drink. For murderers and men
forsworn is a great hall, and a bad, and the doors look
northward; it is altogether wrought of adder-backs like a wattled
house, but the worms' heads turn into the house, and blow venom,
so that rivers of venom run along the hall, and in those rivers
must such men wade forever." There was no priest-class; every
chief was priest for his own folk, offered sacrifice, performed
ceremonies, and so on.

In politics the homestead, with its franklin-owner, was the unit;
the "thing", or hundred-moot, the primal organisation, and the
"godord", or chieftainship, its tie. The chief who had led a
band of kinsmen and followers to the new country, taken
possession of land, and shared it among them, became their head-
ruler and priest at home, speaker and president of their Thing,
and their representative in any dealings with neighbouring chiefs
and their clients. He was not a feudal lord, for any franklin
could change his "godord" as he liked, and the right of "judgment
by peers" was in full use. At first there was no higher
organisation than the local thing. A central thing, and a
speaker to speak a single "law" for the whole island, was
instituted in 929, and afterwards the island was divided in four
quarters, each with a court, under the Al-thing. Society was
divided only into two classes of men, the free and unfree, though
political power was in the hands of the franklins alone; "godi"
and thrall ate the same food, spoke the same tongue, wore much
the same clothes, and were nearly alike in life and habits.
Among the free men there was equality in all but wealth and the
social standing that cannot be separated therefrom. The thrall
was a serf rather than a slave, and could own a house, etc., of
his own. In a generation or so the freeman or landless retainer,
if he got a homestead of his own, was the peer of the highest in
the land. During the tenth century Greenland was colonised from
Iceland, and by end of the same century christianity was
introduced into Iceland, but made at first little difference in
arrangements of society. In the thirteenth century disputes over
the power and jurisdiction of the clergy led, with other matters,
to civil war, ending in submission to Norway, and the breaking
down of all native great houses. Although life under the
commonwealth had been rough and irregular, it had been free and
varied, breeding heroes and men of mark; but the "law and order"
now brought in left all on a dead level of peasant
proprietorship, without room for hope or opening for ambition.
An alien governor ruled the island, which was divided under him
into local counties, administered by sheriffs appointed by the
king of Norway. The Al-thing was replaced by a royal court, the
local work of the local things was taken by a subordinate of the
sheriff, and things, quarter-courts, trial by jury, and all the
rest, were swept away to make room for these "improvements",
which have lasted with few changes into this century. In 1380
the island passed under the rule of Denmark, and so continues.
(9) During the fifteenth century the English trade was the only
link between Iceland and the outer world; the Danish government
weakened that link as much as it could, and sought to shut in and
monopolise everything Icelandic; under the deadening effect of
such rule it is no marvel that everything found a lower level,
and many things went out of existence for lack of use. In the
sixteenth century there is little to record but the Reformation,
which did little good, if any, and the ravages of English,
Gascon, and Algerine pirates who made havoc on the coast; (10)
they appear toward the close of the century and disappear early
in the seventeenth. In the eighteenth century small-pox, sheep
disease, famine, and the terrible eruptions of 1765 and 1783,
follow one another swiftly and with terrible effect. At the
beginning of the present century Iceland, however, began to shake
off the stupor her ill-hap had brought upon her, and as European
attention had been drawn to her, she was listened to.
Newspapers, periodicals, and a Useful Knowledge Society were
started; then came free trade, and the "home-rule" struggle,
which met with partial success in 1874, and is still being
carried on. A colony, Gimli, in far-off Canada, has been formed
of Icelandic emigrants, and large numbers have left their mother-
land; but there are many co-operative societies organised now,
which it is hoped will be able to so revive the old resources of
the island as to make provision for the old population and ways
of life. There is now again a representative central council,
but very many of the old rights and powers have not been yet
restored. The condition of society is peculiar absence of
towns, social equality, no abject poverty or great wealth, rarity
of crime, making it easy for the whole country to be administered
as a co-operative commonwealth without the great and striking
changes rendered necessary by more complicated systems.

Iceland. has always borne a high name for learning and
literature; on both sides of their descent people inherited
special poetic power. Some of older Eddaic fragments attest the
great reach and deep overpowering strength of imagination
possessed by their Norse ancestors; and they themselves had been
quickened by a new leaven. During the first generations of the
"land-taking" a great school of poetry which had arisen among the
Norsemen of the Western Isles was brought by them to Iceland.
(11) The poems then produced are quite beyond parallel with
those of any Teutonic language for centuries after their date,
which lay between the beginning of the ninth and the end of the
tenth centuries. Through the Greenland colony also came two, or
perhaps more, great poems of this western school. This school
grew out of the stress and storm of the viking life, with its
wild adventure and varied commerce, and the close contact with an
artistic and inventive folk, possessed of high culture and great
learning. The infusion of Celtic blood, however slight it may
have been, had also something to do with the swift intense
feeling and rapidity of passion of the earlier Icelandic poets.
They are hot-headed and hot-hearted, warm, impulsive, quick to
quarrel or to love, faithful, brave; ready with sword or song to
battle with all comers, or to seek adventure wheresoever it might
be found. They leave Iceland young, and wander at their will to
different courts of northern Europe, where they are always held
in high honour. Gunnlaug Worm-tongue (12) in 1004 carne to
England, after being in Norway, as the saga says: -- "Now sail
Gunnlaug and his fellows into the English main, and come at
autumntide south to London Bridge, where they hauled ashore their
ship. Now, at that time King Ethelred, the son of Edgar, ruled
over England, and was a good lord; the winter he sat in London.
But in those days there was the same tongue in England as in
Norway and Denmark; but the tongues changed when William the
Bastard won England, for thenceforward French went current there,
for he was of French kin. Gunnlaug went presently to the king,
and greeted him well and worthily. The king asked him from what
land he came, and Gunnlaug told him all as it was. `But,' said
he, `I have come to meet thee, lord, for that I have made a song
on thee, and I would that it might please thee to hearken to that
song.' The king said it should be so, and Gunnlaug gave forth
the song well and proudly, and this is the burden thereof --

"'As God are all folk fearing
The fire lord King of England,
Kin of all kings and all folk,
To Ethelred the head bow.'

The king thanked him for the song, and gave him as song-reward a
scarlet cloak lined with the costliest of furs, and golden-
broidered down to the hem; and made him his man; and Gunnlaug was
with him all the winter, and was well accounted of."

The poems in this volume are part of the wonderful fragments
which are all that remain of ancient Scandinavian poetry. Every
piece which survives has been garnered by Vigfusson and Powell in
the volumes of their "Corpus", where those who seek may find. A
long and illustrious line of poets kept the old traditions, down
even to within a couple centuries, but the earlier great harvest
of song was never again equalled. After christianity had entered
Iceland, and that, with other causes, had quieted men's lives,
although the poetry which stood to the folk in lieu of music did
not die away, it lost the exclusive hold it had upon men's minds.
In a time not so stirring, when emotion was not so fervent or so
swift, when there was less to quicken the blood, the story that
had before found no fit expression but in verse, could stretch
its limbs, as it were, and be told in prose. Something of Irish
influence is again felt in this new departure and that marvellous
new growth, the saga, that came from it, but is little more than
an influence. Every people find some one means of expression
which more than all else suits their mood or their powers, and
this the Icelanders found in the saga. This was the life of a
hero told in prose, but in set form, after a regular fashion that
unconsciously complied with all epical requirements but that of
verse -- simple plot, events in order of time, set phrases for
even the shifting emotion or changeful fortune of a fight or
storm, and careful avoidance of digression, comment, or putting
forward by the narrator of ought but the theme he has in hand; he
himself is never seen. Something in the perfection of the saga
is to be traced to the long winter's evenings, when the whole
household, gathered together at their spinning, weaving, and so
on, would listen to one of their number who told anew some old
story of adventure or achievement. In very truth the saga is a
prose epic, and marked by every quality an epic should possess.
Growing up while the deeds of dead heroes were fresh in memory,
most often recited before the sharers in such deeds, the saga, in
its pure form, never goes from what is truth to its teller.
Where the saga, as this one of the Volsungs is founded upon the
debris of songs and poems, even then very old, tales of
mythological heroes, of men quite removed from the personal
knowledge of the narrator, yet the story is so inwound with the
tradition of his race, is so much a part of his thought-life,
that every actor in it has for him a real existence. At the
feast or gathering, or by the fireside, as men made nets and
women spun, these tales were told over; in their frequent
repetition by men who believed them, though incident or sequence
underwent no change, they would become closer knit, more
coherent, and each an organic whole. Gradually they would take a
regular and accepted form, which would ease the strain upon the
reciter's memory and leave his mind free to adorn the story with
fair devices, that again gave help in the making it easier to
remember, and thus aided in its preservation. After a couple of
generations had rounded and polished the sagas by their telling
and retelling, they were written down for the most part between
1141 and 1220, and so much was their form impressed upon the mind
of the folk, that when learned and literary works appeared, they
were written in the same style; hence we have histories alike of
kingdoms, or families, or miracles, lives of saints, kings, or
bishops in saga-form, as well as subjects that seem at first
sight even less hopeful. All sagas that have yet appeared in
English may be found in the book-list at end of this volume, but
they are not a tithe of those that remain.

Of all the stories kept in being by the saga-tellers and left for
our delight, there is none that so epitomises human experience;
has within the same space so much of nature and of life; so fully
the temper and genius of the Northern folk, as that of the
Volsungs and Niblungs, which has in varied shapes entered into
the literature of many lands. In the beginning there is no doubt
that the story belonged to the common ancestral folk of all the
Teutonic of Scando-Gothic peoples in the earliest days of their
wanderings. Whether they came from the Hindu Kush, or originated
in Northern Europe, brought it with them from Asia, or evolved it
among the mountains and rivers it has taken for scenery, none
know nor can; but each branch of their descendants has it in one
form or another, and as the Icelanders were the very crown and
flower of the northern folk, so also the story which is the
peculiar heritage of that folk received in their hands its
highest expression and most noble form. The oldest shape in
which we have it is in the Eddaic poems, some of which date from
unnumbered generations before the time to which most of them are
usually ascribed, the time of the viking-kingdoms in the Western
Isles. In these poems the only historical name is that of
Attila, the great Hun leader, who filled so large a part of the
imagination of the people whose power he had broken. There is no
doubt that, in the days when the kingdoms of the Scando-Goths
reached from the North Cape to the Caspian, that some earlier
great king performed his part; but, after the striking career of
Attila, he became the recognised type of a powerful foreign
potentate. All the other actors are mythic-heroic. Of the
Eddaic songs only fragments now remain, but ere they perished
there arose from them a saga, that now given to the readers of
this. The so-called Anglo-Saxons brought part of the story to
England in "Beowulf"; in which also appear some incidents that
are again given in the Icelandic saga of "Grettir the Strong".
Most widely known is the form taken by the story in the hands of
an unknown medieval German poet, who, from the broken ballads
then surviving wrote the "Nibelungenlied" or more properly
"Nibelungen Not" ("The Need of the Niblungs"). In this the
characters are all renamed, some being more or less historical
actors in mid-European history, as Theodoric of the East-Goths,
for instance. The whole of the earlier part of the story has
disappeared, and though Siegfried (Sigurd) has slain a dragon,
there is nothing to connect it with the fate that follows the
treasure; Andvari, the Volsungs, Fafnir, and Regin are all
forgotten; the mythological features have become faint, and the
general air of the whole is that of medieval romance. The swoard
Gram is replaced by Balmung, and the Helm of Awing by the
Tarn-cap -- the former with no gain, the latter with great loss.
The curse of Andvari, which in the saga is grimly real, working
itself out with slow, sure steps that no power of god or man can
turn aside, in the medieval poem is but a mere scenic effect, a
strain of mystery and magic, that runs through the changes of the
story with much added picturesqueness, but that has no obvious
relation to the working-out of the plot, or fulfilment of their
destiny by the different characters. Brynhild loses a great
deal, and is a poor creature when compared with herself in the
saga; Grimhild and her fateful drink have gone; Gudrun
(Chriemhild)is much more complex, but not more tragic; one new
character, Rudiger, appears as the type of chivalry; but Sigurd
(Siegfred) the central figure, though he has lost by the omission
of so much of his life, is, as before, the embodiment of all the
virtues that were dear to northern hearts. Brave, strong,
generous, dignified, and utterly truthful, he moves amid a tangle
of tragic events, overmastered by a mighty fate, and in life or
death is still a hero without stain or flaw. It is no wonder
that he survives to this day in the national songs of the Faroe
Islands and in the folk-ballads of Denmark; that his legend
should have been mingled with northern history through Ragnar
Lodbrog, or southern through Attila and Theodoric; that it should
have inspired William Morris in producing the one great English
epic of the century; (13) and Richard Wagner in the mightiest
among his music-dramas. Of the story as told in the saga there
is no need here to speak, for to read it, as may be done a few
pages farther on, is that not better than to read about it? But
it may be urged upon those that are pleased and moved by the
passion and power, the strength and deep truth of it, to find out
more than they now know of the folk among whom it grew, and the
land in which they dwelt. In so doing they will come to see how
needful are a few lessons from the healthy life and speech of
those days, to be applied in the bettering of our own.


(1) Viking (Ice. "Vikingr"; "vik", a bay or creek, "ingr",
beloning to, (or men of) freebooters.
(2) "West over the Sea" is the word for the British Isles.
(3) See Todd (J. H.). "War of the Gaedhil with the Gaill".
(4) He was son of Ingiald, son of Thora, daughter of Sigurd
Snake-I'-th'-eye, son of Ragnar Lodbrok by Aslaug, daughter
of Sigurd by Brynhild. The genealogy is, doubtless, quite
(5) A Collection of Sagas and other Historical Documents
relating to the Settlements and Descents of the Northmen on
the British Isles. Ed., G. W. Dasent, D.C.L, and Gudbrand
Vigfusson, M.A. "In the Press. Longmans, London. 8vo.
(6) "Orkneyinga Saga".
(7) Landtaking-book -- "landnam", landtaking, from "at nema
land", hence also the early settlers were called
(8) To all interested in the subject of comparative mythology,
Andrew Lang's two admirable books, "Custom and Myth" (1884,
8vo) and "Myth, Ritual, and Religion" (2 vols., crown 8vo,
1887), both published by Longmans, London, may be warmly
(9) Iceland was granted full independence from Denmark in 1944.
-- DBK.
(10) These pirates are always appearing about the same time in
English State papers as plundering along the coasts of the
British Isles, especially Ireland.
(11) For all the old Scandinavian poetry extant in Icelandic, see
"Corpus Poeticum Borealis" of Vigfusson and Powell.
(12) Snake-tongue -- so called from his biting satire.
(13) "Sigurd the Volsung", which seems to have become all but
forgotten in this century. -- DBK.


In offering to the reader this translation of the most complete
and dramatic form of the great Epic of the North, we lay no claim
to special critical insight, nor do we care to deal at all with
vexed questions, but are content to abide by existing
authorities, doing our utmost to make our rendering close and
accurate, and, if it might be so, at the same time, not over
prosaic: it is to the lover of poetry and nature, rather than to
the student, that we appeal to enjoy and wonder at this great
work, now for the first time, strange to say, translated into
English: this must be our excuse for speaking here, as briefly as
may be, of things that will seem to the student over well known
to be worth mentioning, but which may give some ease to the
general reader who comes across our book.

The prose of the "Volsunga Saga" was composed probably some time
in the twelfth century, from floating traditions no doubt; from
songs which, now lost, were then known, at least in fragments, to
the Sagaman; and finally from songs, which, written down about
his time, are still existing: the greater part of these last the
reader will find in this book, some inserted amongst the prose
text by the original story-teller, and some by the present
translators, and the remainder in the latter part of the book,
put together as nearly as may be in the order of the story, and
forming a metrical version of the greater portion of it.

These Songs from the Elder Edda we will now briefly compare with
the prose of the Volsung Story, premising that these are the only
metrical sources existing of those from which the Sagaman told
his tale.

Except for the short snatch on p. 24 (1) of our translation,
nothing is now left of these till we come to the episode of Helgi
Hundings-bane, Sigurd's half-brother; there are two songs left
relating to this, from which the prose is put together; to a
certain extent they cover the same ground; but the latter half of
the second is, wisely as we think, left untouched by the Sagaman,
as its interest is of itself too great not to encumber the
progress of the main story; for the sake of its wonderful beauty,
however, we could not refrain from rendering it, and it will be
found first among the metrical translations that form the second
part of this book.

Of the next part of the Saga, the deaths of Sinfjotli and
Sigmund, and the journey of Queen Hjordis to the court of King
Alf, there is no trace left of any metrical origin; but we meet
the Edda once more where Regin tells the tale of his kin to
Sigurd, and where Sigurd defeats and slays the sons of Hunding:
this lay is known as the "Lay of Regin".

The short chap. xvi. is abbreviated from a long poem called the
"Prophecy of Gripir" (the Grifir of the Saga), where the whole
story to come is told with some detail, and which certainly, if
drawn out at length into the prose, would have forestalled the
interest of the tale.

In the slaying of the Dragon the Saga adheres very closely to the
"Lay of Fafnir"; for the insertion of the song of the birds to
Sigurd the present translators are responsible.

Then comes the waking of Brynhild, and her wise redes to Sigurd,
taken from the Lay of Sigrdrifa, the greater part of which, in
its metrical form, is inserted by the Sagaman into his prose; but
the stanza relating Brynhild's awaking we have inserted into the
text; the latter part, omitted in the prose, we have translated
for the second part of our book.

Of Sigurd at Hlymdale, of Gudrun's dream, the magic potion of
Grimhild, the wedding of Sigurd consequent on that potion; of the
wooing of Brynhild for Gunnar, her marriage to him, of the
quarrel of the Queens, the brooding grief and wrath of Brynhild,
and the interview of Sigurd with her -- of all this, the most
dramatic and best-considered parts of the tale, there is now no
more left that retains its metrical form than the few snatches
preserved by the Sagaman, though many of the incidents are
alluded to in other poems.

Chap. xxx. is met by the poem called the "Short Lay of Sigurd",
which, fragmentary apparently at the beginning, gives us
something of Brynhild's awakening wrath and jealousy, the slaying
of Sigurd, and the death of Brynhild herself; this poem we have
translated entire.

The Fragments of the "Lay of Brynhild" are what is left of a poem
partly covering the same ground as this last, but giving a
different account of Sigurd's slaying; it is very incomplete,
though the Sagaman has drawn some incidents from it; the reader
will find it translated in our second part.

But before the death of the heroine we have inserted entire into
the text as chap. xxxi. the "First Lay of Gudrun", the most
lyrical, the most complete, and the most beautiful of all the
Eddaic poems; a poem that any age or language might count among
its most precious possessions.

From this point to the end of the Saga it keeps closely to the
Songs of Edda; in chap. xxxii. the Sagaman has rendered into
prose the "Ancient Lay of Gudrun", except for the beginning,
which gives again another account of the death of Sigurd: this
lay also we have translated.

The grand poem, called the "Hell-ride of Brynhild", is not
represented directly by anything in the prose except that the
Sagaman has supplied from it a link or two wanting in the "Lay of
Sigrdrifa"; it will be found translated in our second part.

The betrayal and slaughter of the Giukings or Niblungs, and the
fearful end of Atli and his sons, and court, are recounted in two
lays, called the "Lays of Atli"; the longest of these, the
"Greenland Lay of Atli", is followed closely by the Sagaman; the
Shorter one we have translated.

The end of Gudrun, of her daughter by Sigurd and of her sons by
her last husband Jonakr, treated of in the last four chapters of
the Saga, are very grandly and poetically given in the songs
called the "Whetting of Gudrun", and the "Lay of Hamdir", which
are also among our translations.

These are all the songs of the Edda which the Sagaman has dealt
with; but one other, the "Lament of Oddrun", we have translated
on account of its intrinsic merit.

As to the literary quality of this work we in say much, but we
think we may well trust the reader of poetic insight to break
through whatever entanglement of strange manners or unused
element may at first trouble him, and to meet the nature and
beauty with which it is filled: we cannot doubt that such a
reader will be intensely touched by finding, amidst all its
wildness and remoteness, such a startling realism, such subtilty,
such close sympathy with all the passions that may move himself

In conclusion, we must again say how strange it seems to us, that
this Volsung Tale, which is in fact an unversified poem, should
never before been translated into English. For this is the Great
Story of the North, which should be to all our race what the Tale
of Troy was to the Greeks -- to all our race first, and
afterwards, when the change of the world has made our race
nothing more than a name of what has been -- a story too -- then
should it be to those that come after us no less than the Tale of
Troy has been to us.


(1) Chapter viii. -- DBK.


Of Sigi, the Son of Odin.

Here begins the tale, and tells of a man who was named Sigi, and
called of men the son of Odin; another man withal is told of in
the tale, hight Skadi, a great man and mighty of his hands; yet
was Sigi the mightier and the higher of kin, according to the
speech of men of that time. Now Skadi had a thrall with whom the
story must deal somewhat, Bredi by name, who was called after
that work which he had to do; in prowess and might of hand he was
equal to men who were held more worthy, yea, and better than some

Now it is to be told that, on a time, Sigi fared to the hunting
of the deer, and the thrall with him; and they hunted deer day-
long till the evening; and when they gathered together their prey
in the evening, lo, greater and more by far was that which Bredi
had slain than Sigi's prey; and this thing he much misliked, and
he said that great wonder it was that a very thrall should out-do
him in the hunting of deer: so he fell on him and slew him, and
buried the body of him thereafter in a snow-drift.

Then he went home at evening tide and says that Bredi had ridden
away from him into the wild-wood. "Soon was he out of my sight,"
he says, "and naught more I wot of him."

Skadi misdoubted the tale of Sigi, and deemed that this was a
guile of his, and that he would have slain Bredi. So he sent men
to seek for him, and to such an end came their seeking, that they
found him in a certain snow-drift; then said Skadi, that men
should call that snow-drift Bredi's Drift from henceforth; and
thereafter have folk followed, so that in such wise they call
every drift that is right great.

Thus it is well seen that Sigi has slain the thrall and murdered
him; so he is given forth to be a wolf in holy places, (1) and
may no more abide in the land with his father; therewith Odin
bare him fellowship from the land, so long a way, that right long
it was, and made no stay till he brought him to certain war-
ships. So Sigi falls to lying out a-warring with the strength
that his father gave him or ever they parted; and happy was he in
his warring, and ever prevailed, till he brought it about that he
won by his wars land and lordship at the last; and thereupon he
took to him a noble wife, and became a great and mighty king, and
ruled over the land of the Huns, and was the greatest of
warriors. He had a son by his wife, who was called Refit, who
grew up in his father's house, and soon became great of growth,
and shapely.

(1) "Wolf in holy places," a man put out of the pale of society
for crimes, an outlaw.

Of the Birth of Volsung, the Son of Rerir, who was the Son of

Now Sigi grew old, and had many to envy him, so that at last
those turned against him whom he trusted most; yea, even the
brothers of his wife; for these fell on him at his unwariest,
when there were few with him to withstand them, and brought so
many against him, that they prevailed against him, and there fell
Sigi and all his folk with him. But Rerir, his son, was not in
this trouble, and he brought together so mighty a strength of his
friends and the great men of the land, that he got to himself
both the lands and kingdom of Sigi his father; and so now, when
he deems that the feet under him stand firm in his rule, then he
calls to mind that which he had against his mother's brothers,
who had slain his father. So the king gathers together a mighty
army, and therewith falls on his kinsmen, deeming that if he made
their kinship of small account, yet none the less they had first
wrought evil against him. So he wrought his will herein, in that
he departed not from strife before he had slain all his father's
banesmen, though dreadful the deed seemed in every wise. So now
he gets land, lordship, and fee, and is become a mightier man
than his father before him.

Much wealth won in war gat Rerir to himself, and wedded a wife
withal, such as he deemed meet for him, and long they lived
together, but had no child to take the heritage after them; and
ill-content they both were with that, and prayed the Gods with
heart and soul that they might get them a child. And so it is
said that Odin hears their prayer, and Freyia no less hearkens
wherewith they prayed unto her: so she, never lacking for all
good counsel, calls to her her casket-bearing may, (1) the
daughter of Hrimnir the giant, and sets an apple in her hand, and
bids her bring it to the king. She took the apple, and did on
her the gear of a crow, and went flying till she came whereas the
king sat on a mound, and there she let the apple fall into the
lap of the king; but he took the apple and deemed he knew whereto
it would avail; so he goes home from the mound to his own folk,
and came to the queen, and some deal of that apple she ate.

So, as the tale tells, the queen soon knew that she big with
child, but a long time wore or ever she might give birth to the
child: so it befell that the king must needs go to the wars,
after the custom of kings, that he may keep his own land in
peace: and in this journey it came to pass that Rerir fell sick
and got his death, being minded to go home to Odin, a thing much
desired of many folk in those days.

Now no otherwise it goes with the queen's sickness than
heretofore, nor may she be the lighter of her child, and six
winters wore away with the sickness still heavy on her; so that
at the last she feels that she may not live long; wherefore now
she bade cut the child from out of her; and it was done even as
she bade; a man-child was it, and great of growth from his birth,
as might well be; and they say that the youngling kissed his
mother or ever she died; but to him is a name given, and he is
called Volsung; and he was king over Hunland in the room of his
father. From his early years he was big and strong, and full of
daring in all manly deeds and trials, and he became the greatest
of warriors, and of good hap in all the battles of his warfaring.

Now when he was fully come to man's estate, Hrimnir the giant
sends to him Ljod his daughter; she of whom the tale told, that
she brought the apple to Rerir, Volsung's father. So Volsung
weds her withal; and long they abode together with good hap and
great love. They had ten sons and one daughter, and their eldest
son was hight Sigmund, and their daughter Signy; and these two
were twins, and in all wise the foremost and the fairest of the
children of Volsung the king, and mighty, as all his seed was;
even as has been long told from ancient days, and in tales of
long ago, with the greatest fame of all men, how that the
Volsungs have been great men and high-minded and far above the
most of men both in cunning and in prowess and all things high
and mighty.

So says the story that king Volsung let build a noble hall in
such a wise, that a big oak-tree stood therein, and that the
limbs of the tree blossomed fair out over the roof of the hall,
while below stood the trunk within it, and the said trunk did men
call Branstock.

(1) May (A.S. "maeg"), a maid.

Of the Sword that Sigmund, Volsung's son, drew from the

There was a king called Siggeir, who ruled over Gothland, a
mighty king and of many folk; he went to meet Volsung, the king,
and prayed him for Signy his daughter to wife; and the king took
his talk well, and his sons withal, but she was loth thereto, yet
she bade her father rule in this as in all other things that
concerned her, so the king took such rede (1) that he gave her to
him, and she was betrothed to King Siggeir; and for the
fulfilling of the feast and the wedding, was King Siggeir to come
to the house of King Volsung. The king got ready the feast
according to his best might, and when all things were ready, came
the king's guests and King Siggeir withal at the day appointed,
and many a man of great account had Siggeir with him.

The tale tells that great fires were made endlong the hall, and
the great tree aforesaid stood midmost thereof, withal folk say
that, whenas men sat by the fires in the evening, a certain man
came into the hall unknown of aspect to all men; and suchlike
array he had, that over him was a spotted cloak, and he was bare-
foot, and had linen-breeches knit tight even unto the bone, and
he had a sword in his hand as he went up to the Branstock, and a
slouched hat upon his head: huge he was, and seeming-ancient, and
one-eyed. (2) So he drew his sword and smote it into the tree-
trunk so that it sank in up to the hilts; and all held back from
greeting the man. Then he took up the word, and said --

"Whoso draweth this sword from this stock, shall have the same as
a gift from me, and shall find in good sooth that never bare he
better sword in hand than is this."

Therewith out went the old man from the hall, and none knew who
he was or whither he went.

Now men stand up, and none would fain be the last to lay hand to
the sword, for they deemed that he would have the best of it who
might first touch it; so all the noblest went thereto first, and
then the others, one after other; but none who came thereto might
avail to pull it out, for in nowise would it come away howsoever
they tugged at it; but now up comes Sigmund, King Volsung's son,
and sets hand to the sword, and pulls it from the stock, even as
if it lay loose before him; so good that weapon seemed to all,
that none thought he had seen such a sword before, and Siggeir
would fain buy it of him at thrice its weight of gold, but
Sigmund said --

"Thou mightest have taken the sword no less than I from there
whereas it stood, if it had been thy lot to bear it; but now,
since it has first of all fallen into my hand, never shalt thou
have it, though thou biddest therefor all the gold thou hast."

King Siggeir grew wroth at these words, and deemed Sigmund had
answered him scornfully, but whereas was a wary man and a double-
dealing, he made as if he heeded this matter in nowise, yet that
same evening he thought how he might reward it, as was well seen

(1) Rede (A.S. raed), counsel, advice, a tale or prophecy.
(2) The man is Odin, who is always so represented, because he
gave his eye as a pledge for a draught from the fountain of
Mimir, the source of all wisdom.

How King Siggeir wedded Signy, and bade King Volsung and his son
to Gothland.

Now it is to be told that Siggeir goes to bed by Signy that
night, and the next morning the weather was fair; then says King
Siggeir that he will not bide, lest the wind should wax, or the
sea grow impassable; nor is it said that Volsung or his sons
letted him herein, and that the less, because they saw that he
was fain to get him gone from the feast. But now says Signy to
her father --

"I have no will to go away with Seggeir, neither does my heart
smile upon him, and I wot, by my fore-knowledge, and from the
fetch (1) of our kin, that from this counsel will great evil fall
on us if this wedding be not speedily undone."

"Speak in no such wise, daughter!" said he, "for great shame will
it be to him, yea, and to us also, to break troth with him, he
being sackless; (2) and in naught may we trust him, and no
friendship shall we have of him, if these matters are broken off;
but he will pay us back in as evil wise as he may; for that alone
is seemly, to hold truly to troth given."

So King Siggeir got ready for home, and before he went from the
feast he bade King Volsung, his father-in-las, come see him in
Gothland, and all his sons with him whenas three months should be
overpast, and to bring such following with him, as he would have,
and as he deemed meet for his honour; and thereby will Siggeir
the king pay back for the shortcomings of the wedding-feast, in
that he would abide thereat but one night only, a thing not
according to the wont of men. So King Volsung gave word to come
on the day named, and the kinsmen-in-law parted, and Siggeir went
home with his wife.

(1) Fetch; wraith, or familiar spirit.
(2) Sackless (A.S. "sacu", Icel. "sok".) blameless.

Of the Slaying of King Volsung.

Now tells the tale of King Volsung and his sons that they go at
the time appointed to Gothland at the bidding of King Siggeir,
and put off from the land in three ships, all well manned, and
have a fair voyage, and made Gothland late of an evening tide.

But that same night came Signy and called her father and brothers
to a privy talk, and told them what she deemed King Siggeir was
minded to do, and how that he had drawn together an army no man
may meet. "And," says she, "he is minded to do guilefully by
you; wherefore I bid you get ye gone back again to your own land,
and gather together the mightiest power ye may, and then come
back hither and avenge you; neither go ye now to your undoing,
for ye shall surely fail not to fall by his wiles if ye turn not
on him even as I bid you."

Then spake Volsung the king, "All people and nations shall tell
of the word I spake, yet being unborn, wherein I vowed a vow that
I would flee in fear from neither fire nor the sword; even so
have I done hitherto, and shall I depart therefrom now I am old?
Yea withal never shall the maidens mock these my sons at the
games, and cry out at them that they fear death; once alone must
all men need die, and from that season shall none escape; so my
rede is that we flee nowhither, but do the work of our hands in
as manly wise as we may; a hundred fights have I fought and
whiles I had more, and whiles I had less, and yet even had I the
victory, nor shall it ever be heard tell of me that I fled away
or prayed for peace."

Then Signy wept right sore, and prayed that she might not go back
to King Siggeir, but King Volsung answered --

"Thou shalt surely go back to thine husband, and abide with him,
howsoever it fares with us."

So Signy went home, and they abode there that night but in the
morning, as soon as it was day, Volsung bade his men arise and go
aland and make them ready for battle; so they went aland, all of
them all-armed, and had not long to wait before Siggeir fell on
them with all his army, and the fiercest fight there was betwixt
them; and Siggeir cried on his men to the onset all he might; and
so the tale tells that King Volsung and his sons went eight times
right through Siggeir's folk that day, smiting and hewing on
either hand, but when they would do so even once again, King
Volsung fell amidst his folk and all his men withal, saving his
ten sons, for mightier was the power against them than they might

But now are all his sons taken, and laid in bonds and led away;
and Signy was ware withal that her father was slain, and her
brothers taken and doomed to death, that she called King Siggeir
apart to talk with her, and said --

"This will I pray of thee, that thou let not slay my brothers
hastily, but let them be set awhile in the stocks, for home to me
comes the saw that says, "Sweet to eye while seen": but longer
life I pray not for them, because I wot well that my prayer will
not avail me."

Then answered Siggeir

"Surely thou art mad and witless, praying thus for more bale for
thy brothers than their present slaying; yet this will I grant
thee, for the better it likes me the more they must bear, and the
longer their pain is or ever death come to them."

Now he let it be done even as she prayed, and a mighty beam was
brought and set on the feet of those ten brethren in a certain
place of the wild-wood, and there they sit day-long until night;
but at midnight, as they sat in the stocks, there came on them a
she-wolf from out the wood; old she was, and both great and evil
of aspect; and the first thing she did was to bite one of those
brethren till he died, and then she ate him up withal, and went
on her way.

But the next morning Signy sent a man to the brethren, even one
whom she most trusted, to wot of the tidings; and when he came
back he told her that one of them was dead, and great and
grievous she deemed it, if they should all fare in like wise, and
yet naught might she avail them.

Soon is the tale told thereof: nine nights together came the she-
wolf at midnight, and each night slew and ate up one of the
brethren, until all were dead, save Sigmund only; so now, before
the tenth night came, Signy sent that trusty man to Sigmund, her
brother, and gave honey into his hand, bidding him do it over
Sigmund's face, and set a little deal of it in his mouth; so he
went to Sigmund and did as he was bidden, and then came home
again; and so the next night came the she-wolf according to her
wont, and would slay him and eat him even as his brothers; but
now she sniffs the breeze from him, whereas he was anointed with
the honey, and licks his face all over with her tongue, and then
thrusts her tongue into the mouth of him. No fear he had
thereof, but caught the she-wolf's tongue betwixt his teeth, and
so hard she started back thereat, and pulled herself away so
mightily, setting her feet against the stock that all was riven
asunder; but he ever held so fast that the tongue came away by
the roots, and thereof she had her bane.

But some men say that this same she-wolf was the mother of King
Siggeir, who had turned herself into this likeness by troll's
lore and witchcraft.

Of how Signy sent the Children of her and Siggeir to Sigmund.

Now whenas Sigmund is loosed and the stocks are broken, he dwells
in the woods and holds himself there; but Signy sends yet again
to wot of the tidings, whether Sigmund were alive or no; but when
those who were sent came to him, he told them all as it had
betid, and how things had gone betwixt him and the wolf; so they
went home and tell Signy the tidings; but she goes and finds her
brother, and they take counsel in such wise as to make a house
underground in the wild-wood; and so things go on a while, Signy
hiding him there, and sending him such things as he needed; but
King Siggeir deemed that all the Volsungs were dead.

Now Siggeir had two sons by his wife, whereof it is told that
when the eldest was ten winters old, Signy sends him to Sigmund,
so that he might give him help, if he would in any wise strive to
avenge his father; so the youngling goes to the wood, and comes
late in evening-tide to Sigmund's earth-house; and Sigmund
welcomed him in seemly fashion, and said that he should make
ready their bread; "But I," said he, "will go seek firewood."

Therewith he gives the meal-bag into his hands while he himself
went to fetch firing; but when he came back the youngling had
done naught at the bread-making. Then asks Sigmund if the bread
be ready --

Says the youngling, "I durst not set hand to the meal sack,
because somewhat quick lay in the meal."

Now Sigmund deemed he wotted that the lad was of no such heart as
that he would be fain to have him for his fellow; and when he met
his sister, Sigmund said that he had come no nigher to the aid of
a man though the youngling were with him.

Then said Signy, "Take him and kill him then; for why should such
an one live longer?" and even so he did.

So this winter wears, and the next winter Signy sent her next son
to Sigmund; and there is no need to make a long tale thereof, for
in like wise went all things, and he slew the child by the
counsel of Signy.

Of the Birth of Sinfjotli the Son of Sigmund.

So on a tide it befell as Signy sat in her bower, that there came
to her a witch-wife exceeding cunning, and Signy talked with her
in such wise, "Fain am I," says she, "that we should change
semblances together."

She says, "Even as thou wilt then."

And so by her wiles she brought it about that they changed
semblances, and now the witch-wife sits in Signy's place
according to her rede, and goes to bed by the king that night,
and he knows not that he has other than Signy beside him.

But the tale tells of Signy, that she fared to the earthhouse of
her brother, and prayed him give her harbouring for the night;
"For I have gone astray abroad in the woods, and know not whither
I am going."

So he said she might abide, and that he would not refuse harbour
to one lone woman, deeming that she would scarce pay back his
good cheer by tale-bearing: so. she came into the house, and they
sat down to meat, and his eyes were often on her, and a goodly
and fair woman she seemed to him; but when they are full, then he
says to her, that he is right fain that they should have but one
bed that night; she nowise turned away therefrom, and so for
three nights together he laid her in bed by him.

Thereafter she fared home, and found the witch-wife and bade her
change semblances again, and she did so.

Now as time wears, Signy brings forth a man-child, who was named
Sinfjotli, and when he grew up he was both big and strong, and
fair of face, and much like unto the kin of the Volsungs, and he
was hardly yet ten winters old when she sent him to Sigmund's
earth-house; but this trial she had made of her other sons or
ever she had sent them to Sigmund, that she had sewed gloves on
to their hands through flesh and skin, and they had borne it ill
and cried out thereat; and this she now did to Sinfjotli, and he
changed countenance in nowise thereat. Then she flayed off the
kirtle so that the skin came off with the sleeves, and said that
this would be torment enough for him; but he said --

"Full little would Volsung have felt such a smart this."

So the lad came to Sigmund, and Sigmund bade him knead their meal
up, while he goes to fetch firing; so he gave him the meal-sack,
and then went after the wood, and by then he came back had
Sinfjotli made an end of his baking. Then asked Sigmund if he
had found nothing in the meal.

"I misdoubted me that there was something quick in the meal when
I first fell to kneading of it, but I have kneaded it all up
together, both the meal and that which was therein, whatsoever it

Then Sigmund laughed out, he said --

"Naught wilt thou eat of this bread to-night, for the most deadly
of worms (1) hast thou kneaded up therewith."

Now Sigmund was so mighty a man that he might eat venom and have
no hurt therefrom; but Sinfjotli might abide whatso venom came on
the outside of him, but might neither eat nor drink thereof.

(1) Serpents.

The Death of King Siggeir and of Stigny.

The tale tells that Sigmund thought Sinfjotli over young to help
him to his revenge, and will first of all harden him with manly
deeds; so in summer-tide they fare wide through the woods and
slay men for their wealth; Sigmund deems him to take much after
the kin of the Volsungs, though he thinks that he is Siggeir's
son, and deems him to have the evil heart of his father, with the
might and daring of the Volsungs; withal he must needs think him
in no wise a kinsome man, for full oft would he bring Sigmund's
wrongs to his memory, and prick him on to slay King Siggeir.

Now on a time as they fare abroad in the wood for the getting of
wealth, they find a certain house, and two men with great gold
rings asleep therein: now these twain were spell-bound skin-
changers, (1) and wolf-skins were hanging up over them in the
house; and every tenth day might they come out of those skins;
and they were kings' sons: so Sigmund and Sinfjofli do the wolf-
skins on them, and then might they nowise come out of them,
though forsooth the same nature went with them as heretofore;
they howled as wolves howl but both knew the meaning of that
howling; they lay out in the wild-wood, and each went his way;
and a word they made betwixt them, that they should risk the
onset of seven men, but no more, and that he who was first to be
set on should howl in wolfish wise: "Let us not depart from
this," says Sigmund, "for thou art young and over-bold, and men
will deem the quarry good, when they take thee."

Now each goes his way, and when they were parted, Sigmund meets
certain men, and gives forth a wolf's howl; and when Sinfjotli
heard it, he went straightway thereto, and slew them all, and
once more they parted. But ere Sinfjotli has fared long through
the woods, eleven men meet him, and he wrought in such wise that
he slew them all, and was awearied therewith, and crawls under an
oak, and there takes his rest. Then came Sigmund thither, and
said --

"Why didst thou not call on me?"

Sinfjotli said, "I was loth to call for thy help for the slaying
of eleven men."

Then Sigmund rushed at him so hard that he staggered and fell,
and Sigmund bit him in the throat. Now that day they might not
come out of their wolf-skins: but Sigmund lays the other on his
back, and bears him home to the house, and cursed the wolf-gears
and gave them to the trolls. Now on a day he saw where two
weasels went and how that one bit the other in the throat, and
then ran straightway into the thicket, and took up a leaf and
laid in on the wound, and thereon his fellow sprang up quite and
clean whole; so Sigmund went out and saw a raven flying with a
blade of that same herb to him; so he took it and drew it over
Sinfjotli's hurt, and he straightway sprang up as whole as though
he had never been hurt. There after they went home to their
earth-house, and abode there till the time came for them to put
off the wolf-shapes; then they burnt them up with fire, and
prayed that no more hurt might come to any one from them; but in
that uncouth guise they wrought many famous deeds in the kingdom
and lordship of King Siggeir.

Now when Sinfjotli was come to man's estate, Sigmund deemed he
had tried him fully, and or ever a long time has gone by he turns
his mind to the avenging of his father; if so it may be brought
about; so on s certain day the twain get them gone from their
earth-house, and come to the abode of King Siggeir late in the
evening, and go into the porch before the hall, wherein were tuns
of ale, and there they lie hid: now the queen is ware of them,
where they are, and is fain to meet them; and when they met they
took counsel and were of one mind that Volsung should be revenged
that same night.

Now Signy and the king had two children of tender age, who played
with a golden toy on the floor, and bowled it along the pavement
of the hall, running along with it; but therewith a golden ring
from off it trundles away into the place where Sigmund and
Sinfjotli lay, and off runs the little one to search for the
same, and beholds withal where two men axe sitting, big and
grimly to look on, with overhanging helms and bright white
byrnies; (2) so he runs up the hall to his father, and tells him
of the sight he has seen, and thereat the king misdoubts of some
guile abiding him; but Signy heard their speech, and arose and
took both the children, and went out into the porch to them and
said --

"Lo ye! These younglings have bewrayed you; come now therefore
and slay them!"

Sigmund says, "Never will I slay thy children for telling of
where I lay hid."

But Sinfjotli made little enow of it, but drew his sword and slew
them both, and cast them into the hall at King 8iggeir's feet.

Then up stood the king and cried on his men to take those who had
lain privily in the porch through the night. So they ran thither
and would lay hands on them, but they stood on their defence well
and manly, and long he remembered it who was the nighest to them;
but in the end they were borne down by many men and taken, and
bonds were set upon them, and they were cast into fetters wherein
they sit night long.

Then the king ponders what longest and worst of deaths he shall
mete out to them; and when morning came he let make a great
barrow of stones and turf; and when it was done, let set a great
flat stone midmost inside thereof, so that one edge was aloft,
the other alow; and so great it was that it went from wall to
wall, so that none might pass it.

Now he bids folk take Sigmund and Sinfjotli and set them in the
barrow, on either side of the stone, for the worse for them he
deemed it, that they might hear each the other's speech, and yet
that neither might pass one to the other. But now, while they
were covering in the barrow with the turf-slips, thither came
Signy, bearing straw with her, and cast it down to Sinfjotli, and
bade the thralls hide this thing from the king; they said yea
thereto, and therewithal was the barrow closed in.

But when night fell, Sinfjotli said to Sigmund, "Belike we shall
scarce need meat for a while, for here has the queen cast swine's
flesh into the barrow, and wrapped it round about on the outer
side with straw."

Therewith he handles the flesh and finds that therein was thrust
Sigmund's sword; and he knew it by the hilts as mirk as it might
be in the barrow, and tells Sigmund thereof, and of that were
they both fain enow.

Now Sinfjotli drave the point of the sword up into the big stone,
and drew it hard along, and the sword bit on the stone. With
that Sigmund caught the sword by the point, and in this wise they
sawed the stone between them, and let not or all the sawing was
done that need be done, even as the song sings:

"Sinfjotli sawed
And Sigmund sawed,
Atwain with main
The stone was done."

Now are they both together loose in the barrow, and soon they cut
both through stone and through iron, and bring themselves out
thereof. Then they go home to the hall, whenas all men slept
there, and bear wood to the hall, and lay fire therein; and
withal the folk therein are waked by the smoke, and by the hall
burning over their heads.

Then the king cries out, "Who kindled this fire, I burn withal?"

"Here am I," says Sigmund, "with Sinfjotli, my sister's son; and
we are minded that thou shalt wot well that all the Volsungs are
not yet dead."

Then he bade his sister come out, and take all good things at his
hands, and great honour, and fair atonement in that wise, for all
her griefs.

But she answered, "Take heed now, and consider, if I have kept
King Siggeir in memory, and his slaying of Volsung the king! I
let slay both my children, whom I deemed worthless for the
revenging of our father, and I went into the wood to thee in a
witch-wife's shape; and now behold, Sinfjotli is the son of thee
and of me both! And therefore has he this so great hardihood
and fierceness, in that he is the son both of Volsung's son and
Volsung's daughter; and for this, and for naught else, have I so
wrought, that Siggeir might get his bane at last; and all these
things have I done that vengeance might fall on him, and that I
too might not live long; and merrily now will I die with King
Siggeir, though I was naught merry to wed him."

Therewith she kissed Sigmund her brother, and Sinfjotli, and went
back again into the fire, and there she died with King Siggeir
and all his good men.

But the two kinsmen gathered together folk and ships, and Sigmund
went back to his father's land, and drave away thence the king,
who had set himself down there in the room of king Volsung.

So Sigmund became a mighty King and far-famed, wise and high-
minded: he had to wife one named Borghild, and two sons they had
between them, one named Helgi and the other Hamund; and when
Helgi was born, Norns came to him, (3) and spake over him, and
said that he should be in time to come the most renowned of all
kings. Even therewith was Sigmund come home from the wars, and
so therewith he gives him the name of Helgi, and these matters as
tokens thereof, Land of Rings, Sun-litten Hill and Sharp-shearing
Sword, and withal prayed that he might grow of great fame, and
like unto the kin of the Volsungs.

And so it was that he grew up high-minded, and well beloved, and
above all other men in all prowess; and the story tells that he
went to the wars when he was fifteen winters old. Helgi was lord
and ruler over the army, but Sinfjotli was gotten to be his
fellow herein; the twain bare sway thereover.

(1) "Skin-changers" were universally believed in once, in
Iceland no less than elsewhere, as see Ari in several places
of his history, especially the episode of Dufthach and
Storwolf o' Whale. Men possessing the power of becoming
wolves at intervals, in the present case compelled so to
become, wer-wolves or "loupsgarou", find large place in
medieval story, but were equally well-known in classic
times. Belief in them still lingers in parts of Europe
where wolves are to be found. Herodotus tells of the Neuri,
who assumed once a year the shape of wolves; Pliny says that
one of the family of Antaeus, chosen by lot annually, became
a wolf, and so remained for nine years; Giraldus Cambrensis
will have it that Irishmen may become wolves; and Nennius
asserts point-blank that "the descendants of wolves are
still in Ossory;" they retransform themselves into wolves
when they bite. Apuleius, Petronius, and Lucian have
similar stories. The Emperor Sigismund convoked a council
of theologians in the fifteenth century who decided that
wer-wolves did exist.
(2) Byrny (A.S. "byrne"), corslet, cuirass.
(3) "Norns came to him." Nornir are the fates of the northern
mythology. They are three -- "Urd", the past; "Verdandi",
the present; and "Skuld", the future. They sit beside the
fountain of Urd ("Urdarbrienur"), which is below one of the
roots of "Yggdrasil", the world-tree, which tree their
office it is to nourish by sprinkling it with the water of
the fountain.

How Helgi, the son of Sigmund, won King Hodbrod and his Realm,
and wedded Sigurn.

Now the tale tells that Helgi in his warring met a king hight
Hunding, a mighty king, and lord of many men and many lands; they
fell to battle together, and Helgi went forth mightily, and such
was the end of that fight that Helgi had the victory, but King
Hunding fell and many of his men with him; but Helgi is deemed to
have grown greatly in fame because he had slain so mighty a king.

Then the sons of Hunding draw together a great army to avenge
their father. Hard was the fight betwixt them; but Helgi goes
through the folk of those brothers unto their banner, and there
slays these sons of Hunding, Alf and Eyolf, Herward and Hagbard,
and wins there a great victory.

Now as Helgi fared from the fight he met a many women right fair
and worthy to look on, who rode in exceeding noble array; but one
far excelled them all; then Helgi asked them the name of that
their lady and queen, and she named herself Sigrun, and said she
was daughter of King Hogni.

Then said Helgi, "Fare home with us: good welcome shall ye have!"

Then said the king's daughter, "Other work lies before us than to
drink with thee."

"Yea, and what work, king's daughter?" said Helgi.

She answers, "King Hogni has promised me to Hodbrod, the son of
King Granmar, but I have vowed a vow that I will have him to my
husband no more than if he were a crow's son and not a king's;
and yet will the thing come to pass, but and if thou standest in
the way thereof and goest against him with an army, and takest me
away withal; for verily with no king would I rather bide on
bolster than with thee."

"Be of good cheer, king's daughter," says he, "for certes he and
I shall try the matter, or ever thou be given to him; yea, we
shall behold which may prevail against the other; and hereto I
pledge my life."

Thereafter, Helgi sent men with money in their hand to summon his
folk to him, and all his power is called together to Red-Berg:
and there Helgi abode till such time as a great company came to
him from Hedinsey; and therewithal came mighty power from Norvi
Sound aboard great and fair ships. Then King Helgi called to him
the captain of his ships, who was hight Leif, and asked him if he
had told over the tale of his army.

"A thing not easy to tell, lord," says he, "on the ships that
came out of Norvi Sound are twelve thousand men, and otherwhere
are half as many again."

Then bade King Helgi turn into the firth, called Varin's firth,
and they did so: but now there fell on them so fierce a storm and
so huge a sea, that the beat of the waves on board and bow was to
hearken to like as the clashing together of high hills broken.

But Helgi bade men fear naught, nor take in any sail, but rather
hoist every rag higher than heretofore; but little did they miss
of foundering or ever they made land; then came Sigrun, daughter
of King Hogni, down on to the beach with a great army, and turned
them away thence to a good haven called Gnipalund; but the
landsmen see what has befallen and come down to the sea-shore.
The brother of King Hodbrod, lord of a land called Swarin's
Cairn, cried out to them, and asked them who was captain over
that mighty army. Then up stands Sinfjotli, with a helm on his
head, bright shining as glass, and a byrny as white as snow; a
spear in his hand, and thereon a banner of renown, and a gold-
rimmed shield hanging before him; and well he knew with what
words to speak to kings --

"Go thou and say, when thou hast made an end of feeding thy swine
and thy dogs, and when thou beholdest thy wife again, that here
are come the Volsungs, and in this company may King Helgi be
found, if Hodbrod be fain of finding him, for his game and his
joy it is to fight and win fame, while thou art kissing the
handmaids by the fire-side."

Then answered Granmar, "In nowise knowest thou how to speak
seemly things, and to tell of matters remembered from of old,
whereas thou layest lies on chiefs and lords; most like it is
that thou must have long been nourished with wolf-meat abroad in
the wild-woods, and has slain thy brethren; and a marvel it is to
behold that thou darest to join thyself to the company of good
men and true, thou, who hast sucked the blood of many a cold

Sinfjotli answered, "Dim belike is grown thy memory now, of how
thou wert a witch-wife on Varinsey, and wouldst fain have a man
to thee, and chose me to that same office of all the world; and
how thereafter thou wert a Valkyria (1) in Asgarth, and it well-
nigh came to this, that for thy sweet sake should all men fight;
and nine wolf whelps I begat on thy body in Lowness, and was the
father to them all."

Granmar answers, "Great skill of lying hast thou; yet belike the
father of naught at all mayst thou be, since thou wert gelded by
the giant's daughters of Thrasness; and lo thou art the stepson
of King Siggeir, and were wont to lie abroad in wilds and woods
with the kin of wolves; and unlucky was the hand wherewith thou
slewest thy brethren making for thyself an exceeding evil name."

Said Sinfjotli, "Mindest thou not then, when thou were stallion
Grani's mare, and how I rode thee an amble on Bravoli, and that
afterwards thou wert giant Golnir's goat herd?"

Granmar says, "Rather would I feed fowls with the flesh of thee
than wrangle any longer with thee."

Then spake King Helgi, "Better were it for ye, and a more manly
deed, to fight, rather than to speak such things as it is a shame
even to hearken to; Granmar's sons are no friends of me and of
mine, yet are they hardy men none the less."

So Granmar rode away to meet King Hodbrod, at a stead called
Sunfells, and the horses of the twain were named Sveipud and
Sveggjud. The brothers met in the castle-porch, and Granmar told
Hodbrod of the war-news. King Hodbrod was clad in a byrny, and
had his helm on his head; he asked --

"What men are anigh, why look ye so wrathful?"

Granmar says, "Here are come the Volsungs, and twelve thousand
men of them are afloat off the coast, and seven thousand are at
the island called Sok, but at the stead called Grindur is the
greatest company of all, and now I deem withal that Helgi and his
fellowship have good will to give battle."

Then said the king, "Let us send a message through all our realm,
and go against them, neither let any who is fain of fight sit
idle at home; let us send word to the sons of Ring, and to King
Hogni, and to Alf the Old, for they are mighty warriors."

So the hosts met at Wolfstone, and fierce fight befell there;
Helgi rushed forth through the host of his foes, and many a man
fell there; at last folk saw a great company of shield-maidens,
like burning flames to look on, and there was come Sigrun, the
king's daughter. Then King Helgi fell on King Hodbrod, and smote
him, and slew him even under his very banner; and Sigrun cried
out --

"Have thou thanks for thy so manly deed! Now shall we share the
land between us, and a day of great good hap this is to me, and
for this deed shalt thou get honour and renown, in that thou hast
felled to earth so mighty a king."

So Helgi took to him that realm and dwelt there long, when he had
wedded Sigrun, and became a king of great honour and renown,
though he has naught more to do with this story.

(1) Valkyrja, "Chooser of the elected." The women were so
called whom Odin sent to choose those for death in battle
who were to join the "Einherjar" in the hall of the elected,

The ending of Sinfjatli, Sigmund's Son.

Now the Volsungs fare back home, and have gained great renown by
these deeds. But Sinfjotli betook himself to warfare anew; and
therewith he had sight of an exceeding fair woman, and yearned
above all things for her, but that same woman was wooed also of
the brother of Borghild, the king's wife: and this matter they
fought out betwixt them, and Sinfjotli slew that king; and
thereafter he harried far and wide, and had many a battle and
even gained the day; and he became hereby honoured and renowned
above all men; but in autumn tide he came home with many ships
and abundant wealth.

Then he told his tidings to the king his father, and he again to
the queen, and she for her part bids him get him gone from the
realm, and made as if she would in nowise see him. But Sigmund
said he would not drive him away, and offered her atonement of
gold and great wealth for her brother's life, albeit he said he
had never erst given weregild (1) to any for the slaying of a
man, but no fame it was to uphold wrong against a woman.

So seeing she might not get her own way herein, she said, "Have
thy will in this matter, O my lord, for it is seemly so to be."

And now she holds the funeral feast for her brother by the aid
and counsel of the king, and makes ready all things thereœor in
the best of wise, and bade thither many great men.

At that feast, Borghild the queen bare the drink to folk, and she
came over against Sinfjofli with a great horn, and said --

"Fall to now and drink, fair stepson!"

Then he took the horn to him, and looked therein, and said --

"Nay, for the drink is charmed drink"

Then said Sigmund, "Give it unto me then;" and therewith he took
the horn and drank it off.

But the queen said to Sinfjotli, "Why must other men needs drink
thine ale for thee?" And she came again the second time with the
horn, and said, "Come now and drink!" and goaded him with many

And he took the horn, and said --

"Guile is in the drink."

And thereon, Sigmund cried out --

"Give it then unto me!"

Again, the third time, she came to him, and bade him drink off
his drink, if he had the heart of a Volsung; then he laid hand on
the horn, but said --

"Venom is therein."

"Nay, let the lip strain it out then, O son," quoth Sigmund; and
by then was he exceeding drunk with drink, and therefore spake he
in that wise.

So Sinfjotli drank, and straightway fell down dead to the ground.

Sigmund rose up, and sorrowed nigh to death over him; then he
took the corpse in his arms and fared away to the wood, and went
till he came to a certain firth; and then he saw a man in a
little boat; and that man asked if he would be wafted by him over
the firth, and he said yes thereto; but so little was the boat,
that they might not all go in it at once, so the corpse was first
laid therein, while Sigmund went by the firth-side. But
therewith the boat and the man therein vanished away from before
Sigmund's eyes. (2)

So thereafter Sigmund turned back home, and drave away the queen,
and a little after she died. But Sigmund the king yet ruled his
realm, and is deemed ever the greatest champion and king of the
old law.

(1) Weregild, fine for man-slaying ("wer", man, and "gild", a
(2) The man in the boat is Odin, doubtless.


Of King Sigmund's last Battle, and of how he must yield up his
Sword again.

There was a king called Eylimi, mighty and of great fame, and his
daughter was called Hjordis, the fairest and wisest of womankind;
and Sigmund hears it told of her that she was meet to be his
wife, yea if none else were. So he goes to the house of King
Eylimi, who would make a great feast for him, if so be he comes
not thither in the guise of a foe. So messages were sent from
one to the other that this present journey was a peaceful one,
and not for war; so the feast was held in the best of wise and
with many a man thereat; fairs were in every place established
for King Sigmund, and all things else were done to the aid and
comfort of his journey: so he came to the feast, and both kings
hold their state in one hall; thither also was come King Lyngi,
son of King Hunding, and he also is a-wooing the daughter of King

Now the king deemed he knew that the twain had come thither but
for one errand, and thought withal that war and trouble might be
looked for from the hands of him who brought not his end about;
so he spake to his daughter, and said --

"Thou art a wise woman, and I have spoken it, that thou alone
shalt choose a husband for thyself; choose therefore between
these two kings, and my rede shall be even as thine."

"A hard and troublous matter," says she; "yet will I choose him
who is of greatest fame, King Sigmund to wife albeit he is well
stricken in years."

So to him was she betrothed, and King Lyngi gat him gone. Then
was Sigmund wedded to Hjordis, and now each day was the feast
better and more glorious than on the day before it. But
thereafter Sigmund went back home to Hunland, and King Eylimi,
his father-in-law, with him, and King Sigmund betakes himself to
the due ruling of his realm.

But King Lyngi and his brethren gather an army together to fall
on Sigmund, for as in all matters they were wont to have the
worser lot, so did this bite the sorest of all; and they would
fain prevail over the might and pride of the Volsungs. So they
came to Hunland, and sent King Sigmund word how that they would
not steal upon him and that they deemed he would scarce slink
away from them. So Sigmund said he would come and meet them in
battle, and drew his power together; but Hjordis was borne into
the wood with a certain bondmaid, and mighty wealth went with
them; and there she abode the while they fought.

Now the vikings rushed from their ships in numbers not to be
borne up against, but Sigmund the King, and Eylimi set up their
banners, and the horns blew up to battle; but King Sigmund let
blow the horn his father erst had had, and cheered on his men to
the fight, but his army was far the fewest.

Now was that battle fierce and fell, and though Sigmund were old,
yet most hardily he fought, and was ever the foremost of his men;
no shield or byrny might hold against him, and he went ever
through the ranks of his foemen on that day, and no man might see
how things would fare between them; many an arrow and many a
spear was aloft in air that day, and so his spae-wrights wrought
for him that he got no wound, and none can tell over the tale of
those who fell before him, and both his arms were red with blood,
even to the shoulders.

But now whenas the battle had dured a while, there came a man
into the fight clad in a blue cloak, and with a slouched hat on
his head, one-eyed he was, (1) and bare a bill in his hand; and
he came against Sigmund the King, and have up his bill against
him, and as Sigmund smote fiercely with the sword it fell upon
the bill and burst asunder in the midst: thenceforth the
slaughter and dismay turned to his side, for the good-hap of King
Sigmund had departed from him, and his men fell fast about him;
naught did the king spare himself, but the rather cheered on his
men; but even as the saw says, "No might 'gainst many", so was it
now proven; and in this fight fell Sigmund the King, and King
Eylimi, his father-in-law, in the fore-front of their battle, and
therewith the more part of their folk.

(1) Odin coming to change the ownership of the sword he had
given Sigmund. See Chapter 3.

Of the Shards of the Sword Gram, and how Hjordis went to King

Now King Lyngi made for the king's abode, and was minded to take
the king's daughter there, but failed herein, for there he found
neither wife nor wealth; so he fared through all the realm, and
gave his men rule thereover, and now deemed that he had slain all
the kin of the Volsungs, and that he need dread them no more from

Now Hjordis went amidst the slain that night of the battle, and
came whereas lay King Sigmund, and asked if he might be healed;
but he answered --

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