Part 3 out of 5
wrath of the Gods has fallen upon her."
Then spake Gudrun to Gunnar, "Go and see her," she says, "and bid
her know that I am grieved with her grief."
"Nay," says Gunnar, "I am forbid to go see her or to share her
Nevertheless he went unto her, and strives in many wise to have
speech of her, but gets no answer whatsoever; therefore he gets
him gone and finds Hogni, and bids him go see her: he said he was
loth thereto, but went, and gat no more of her.
Then they go and find Sigurd, and pray him to visit her; he
answered naught thereto, and so matters abode for that night.
But the next day, when he came home from hunting, Sigurd went to
Gudrun, and spake --
"In such wise do matters show to me, as though great and evil
things will betide from this trouble and upheaving; and that
Brynhild will surely die."
Gudrun answers, "O my lord, by great wonders is she encompassed,
seven days and seven nights has she slept, and none has dared
"Nay, she sleeps not," said Sigurd, "her heart is dealing rather
with dreadful intent against me."
Then said Gudrun, weeping, "Woe worth the while for thy death!
Go and see her; and wot if her fury may not be abated; give her
gold, and smother up her grief and anger therewith!"
Then Sigurd went out, and found the door of Brynhild's chamber
open; he deemed she slept, and drew the clothes from off her, and
"Awake, Brynhild! The sun shineth now over all the house, and
thou hast slept enough; cast off grief from thee, and take up
She said, "And how then hast thou dared to come to me? In this
treason none was worse to me than thou."
Said Sigurd, "Why wilt thou not speak to folk? For what cause
Brynhild answers, "Ah, to thee will I tell of my wrath!"
Sigurd said, "As one under a spell art thou, if thou deemest that
there is aught cruel in my heart against thee; but thou hast him
for husband whom thou didst choose."
"Ah, nay," she said, "never did Gunnar ride through the fire to
me, nor did he give me to dower the host of the slain: I wondered
at the man who came into my hall; for I deemed indeed that I knew
thine eyes; but I might not see clearly, or divide the good from
the evil, because of the veil that lay heavy on my fortune."
Says Sigurd, "No nobler men are there than the sons of Giuki,
they slew the king of the Danes, and that great chief, the
brother of King Budli."
Brynhild answered, "Surely for many an ill-deed must I reward
them; mind me not of my griefs against them! But thou, Sigurd,
slewest the Worm, and rodest the fire through; yea, and for my
sake, and not one of the sons of King Giuki."
Sigurd answers, "I am not thy husband, and thou art not my wife;
yet did a farfamed king pay dower to thee."
Says Brynhild, "Never looked I at Gunnar in such a wise that my
heart smiled on him; and hard and fell am I to him, though I hide
it from others."
"A marvellous thing," says Sigurd, "not to love such a king; what
angers thee most? For surely his love should be better to thee
"This is the sorest sorrow to me," she said, "that the bitter
sword is not reddened in thy blood."
"Have no fear thereof!" says he, "no long while to wait or the
bitter sword stand deep in my heart; and no worse needest thou to
pray for thyself, for thou wilt not live when I am dead; the days
of our two lives shall be few enough from henceforth."
Brynhild answers, "Enough and to spare of bale is in thy speech,
since thou bewrayedst me, and didst twin (1) me and all bliss; --
naught do I heed my life or death."
Sigurd answers, "Ah, live, and love King Gunnar and me withal!
And all my wealth will I give thee if thou die not."
Brynhild answers, "Thou knowest me not, nor the heart that is in
me; for thou art the first and best of all men, and I am become
the most loathsome of all woman to thee."
"This is truer," says Sigurd, "that I loved thee better than
myself, though I fell into the wiles from whence our lives may
not escape; for whenso my own heart and mind availed me, then I
sorrowed sore that thou wert not my wife; but as I might I put my
trouble from me, for in a king's dwelling was I; and withal and
in spite of all I was well content that we were all together.
Well may it be, that that shall come to pass which is foretold;
neither shall I fear the fulfilment thereof."
Brynhild answered, and said, "Too late thou tellest me that my
grief grieved thee: little pity shall I find now."
Sigurd said, "This my heart would, that thou and I should go into
one bed together; even so wouldst thou be my wife."
Said Brynhild, "Such words may nowise be spoken, nor will I have
two kings in one hall; I will lay my life down rather than
beguile Gunnar the King."
And therewith she call to mind how they met, they two, on the
mountain, and swore oath each to each.
"But now is all changed and I will not live."
"I might not call to mind thy name," said Sigurd, "or know time
again, before the time of thy wedding; the greatest of all griefs
Then said Brynhild, "I swore an oath to wed the man who should
ride my flaming fire, and that oath will I hold to, or die."
"Rather than thou die, I will wed thee, and put away Gudrun."
But therewithal so swelled the heart betwixt the sides of him,
that the rings of his byrny burst asunder.
"I will not have thee," says Brynhild, "nay, nor any other!"
Then Sigurd got him gone.
So saith the song of Sigurd --
"Out then went Sigurd,
The great kings' well-loved,
From the speech and the sorrow,
Sore drooping, so grieving,
That the shirt round about him
Of iron tings woven,
From the sides brake asunder
Of the brave in the battle."
So when Sigurd came into the hall, Gunnar asked if he had come to
a knowledge of what great grief lay heavy on her, or if she had
power of speech: and Sigurd said that she lacked it not. So now
Gunnar goes to her again, and asked her, what wrought her woe, or
if there were anything that might amend it.
"I will not live," says Brynhild, "for Sigurd has bewrayed me,
yea, and thee no less, whereas thou didst suffer him to come into
my bed: lo thou, two men in one dwelling I will not have; and
this shall be Sigurd's death, or thy death, or my death; -- for
now has he told Gudrun all, and she is mocking me even now!"
Of the Slaying of Sigurd Fafnir's-bane.
Thereafter Brynhild went out, and sat under her bower-wall, and
had many words of wailing to say, and still she cried that all
things were loathsome to her, both land and lordship alike, so
she might not have Sigurd.
But therewith came Gunnar to her yet again, and Brynhild spake,
"Thou shalt lose both realm and wealth, and thy life and me, for
I shall fare home to my kin, and abide there in sorrow, unless
thou slayest Sigurd and his son; never nourish thou a wolfcub."
Gunnar grew sick at heart thereat, and might nowise see what
fearful thing lay beneath it all; he was bound to Sigurd by oath,
and this way and that way swung the heart within him; but at the
last he bethought him of the measureless shame if his wife went
from him, and he said within himself, "Brynhild is better to me
than all things else, and the fairest woman of all women, and I
will lay down my life rather than lose the love of her." And
herewith he called to him his brother and spake, --
"Trouble is heavy on me," and he tells him that he must needs
slay Sigurd, for that he has failed him where in he trusted him;
"so let us be lords of the gold and the realm withal."
Hogni answers, "Ill it behoves us to break our oaths with wrack
and wrong, and withal great aid we have in him; no kings shall be
as great as we, if so be the King of the Hun-folk may live; such
another brother-in-law never may we get again; bethink thee how
good it is to have such a brother-in-law, and such sons to our
sister! But well I see how things stand, for this has Brynhild
stirred thee up to, and surely shall her counsel drag us into
huge shame and scathe."
Gunnar says, "Yet shall it be brought about: and, lo, a rede
thereto; -- let us egg on our brother Guttorm to the deed; he is
young, and of little knowledge, and is clean out of all the oaths
"Ah, set about in ill wise," says Hogni, "and though indeed it
may well be compassed, a due reward shall we gain for the
bewrayal of such a man as is Sigurd."
Gunnar says, "Sigurd shall die, or I shall die."
And therewith he bids Brynhild arise and be glad at heart: so she
arose, and still ever she said that Gunnar should come no more
into her bed till the deed was done.
So the brothers fall to talk, and Gunnar says that it is a deed
well worthy of death, that taking of Brynhild's maidenhead; "So
come now, let us prick on Guttorm to do the deed."
Therewith they call him to them, and offer him gold and great
dominion, as they well have might to do. Yea, and they took a
certain worm and somewhat of wolf's flesh and let seethe them
together, and gave him to eat of the same, even as the singer
"Fish of the wild-wood,
Worm smooth crawling,
With wolf-meat mingled,
They minced for Guttorm;
Then in the beaker,
In the wine his mouth knew,
They set it, still doing
More deeds of wizards.
Wherefore with the eating of this meat he grew so wild and eager,
and with all things about him, and with the heavy words of
Grimhild, that he gave his word to do the deed; and mighty honour
they promised him in reward thereof.
But of these evil wiles naught at all knew Sigurd, for he might
not deal with his shapen fate, nor the measure of his life-days,
neither deemed he that he was worthy such things at their hands.
So Guttorm went in to Sigurd the next morning as he lay upon his
bed, yet durst he not do aught against him, but shrank back out
again; yea, and even so he fared a second time, for so bright and
eager were the eyes of Sigurd that few durst look upon him. But
the third time he went in, and there lay Sigurd asleep; then
Guttorm drew his sword and thrust Sigurd through in such wise
that the sword point smote into the bed beneath him; then Sigurd
awoke with that wound, and Guttorm gat him unto the door; but
therewith Sigurd caught up the sword Gram, and cast it after him,
and it smote him on the back, and struck him asunder in the
midst, so that the feet of him fell one way, and the head and
hands back into the chamber.
Now Gudrun lay asleep on Sigurd's bosom, but she woke up unto woe
that may not be told of, all swimming in the blood of him, and in
such wise did she bewail her with weeping and words of sorrow,
that Sigurd rose up on the bolster, and spake.
"Weep not," said he, "for thy brothers live for thy delight; but
a young son have I, too young to be ware of his foes; and an ill
turn have these played against their own fortune; for never will
they get a mightier brother-in-law to ride abroad with them; nay,
nor a better son to their sister, than this one, if he may grow
to man's estate. Lo, now is that come to pass which was foretold
me long ago, but from mine eyes has it been hidden, for none may
fight against his fate and prevail. Behold this has Brynhild
brought to pass, even she who loves me before all men; but this
may I swear, that never have I wrought ill to Gunnar, but rather
have ever held fast to my oath with him, nor was I ever too much
a friend to his wife. And now if I had been forewarned, and had
been afoot with my weapons, then should many a man have lost his
life or ever I had fallen, and all those brethren should have
been slain, and a harder work would the slaying of me have been
than the slaying of the mightiest bull or the mightiest boar of
And even therewithal life left the King; but Gudrun moaned and
drew a weary breath, and Brynhild heard it and laughed when she
heard her moaning.
Then said Gunnar, "Thou laughest not because thy heart-roots are
gladdened, or else why doth thy visage wax so wan? Sure an evil
creature thou art; most like thou art nigh to thy death! Lo now,
how meet would it be for thee to behold thy brother Atli slain
before thine eyes, and that thou shouldst stand over him dead;
whereas we must needs now stand over our brother-in-law in such a
case our brother-in-law and our brother's bane."
She answered, "None need mock at the measure of slaughter being
unfulfilled; yet heedeth not Atli your wrath or your threats;
yea, he shall live longer than ye, and be a mightier man."
Hogni spake and said, "Now hath come to pass the soothsaying of
Brynhild; an ill work not to be atoned for."
And Gudrun said, "My kinsmen have slain my husband; but ye, when
ye next ride to the war and are come into the battle, then shall
ye look about and see that Sigurd is neither on the fight hand
nor the left, and ye shall know that he was your good-hap and
your strength; and if he had lived and had sons, then should ye
have been strengthened by his offspring and his kin."
Of the Lamentation of Gudrun over Sigurd's dead, as it is told
told in ancient Songs. (1)
Gudrun of old days
Drew near to dying
As she sat in sorrow
Yet she sighed not
Nor smote hand on hand,
Nor wailed she aught
As other women.
Then went earls to her.
Full of all wisdom,
Fain help to deal
To her dreadful heart:
Hushed was Gudrun
Of wail, or greeting,
But with a heavy woe
Was her heart a-breaking.
Bright and fair
Sat the great earls' brides,
Each told the tale
Of her great trouble,
The bitterest bale
She erst abode.
Then spake Giaflaug,
"Lo upon earth
I live most loveless
Who of five mates
Must see the ending,
Of daughters twain
And three sisters,
Of brethren eight,
And abide behind lonely."
Naught gat Gudrun
Of wail and greeting,
So heavy was she
For her dead husband,
For the King laid dead there.
Then spake Herborg
Queen of Hunland --
Have I to tell of,
Of my seven sons
Down in the Southlands,
And the eighth man, my mate,
Felled in the death-mead.
"Father and mother,
And four brothers,
On the wide sea
The winds and death played with;
The billows beat
On the bulwark boards.
"Alone must I sing o'er them,
Alone must I array them,
Alone must my hands deal with
And all this was
In one season's wearing,
And none was left
For love or solace.
"Then was I bound
A prey of the battle,
When that same season
Wore to its ending;
As a tiring may
Must I bind the shoon
Of the duke's high dame,
Every day at dawning.
"From her jealous hate
Gat I heavy mocking,
She laid upon me,
Never met I
Or mistress worser
In all the wide world."
Naught gat Gudrun
Of wail or greeting,
So heavy was she
For her dead husband,
For the King laid dead there.
Then spake Gullrond,
Giuki's daughter --
Wise as thou mayst be,
Naught canst thou better
The young wife's bale."
And she bade uncover
The dead King's corpse.
She swept the sheet
Away from Sigurd,
And turned his cheek
Towards his wife's knees --
"Look on thy loved one
Lay lips to his lips,
E'en as thou wert clinging
To thy king alive yet!"
Once looked Gudrun --
One look only,
And saw her lord's locks
Lying all bloody,
The great man's eyes
Glazed and deadly,
And his heart's bulwark
Broken by sword-edge.
Back then sank Gudrun,
Back on the bolster,
Loosed was her head array,
Red did her cheeks grow,
And the rain-drops ran
Down over her knees.
Then wept Gudrun,
So that the tears flowed
Through the pillow;
As the geese withal
That were in the homefield,
The fair fowls the may owned,
Then spake Gullrond,
Giuki's daughter --
"Surely knew I
No love like your love
Among all men,
On the mould abiding;
Naught wouldst thou joy in
Without or within doors,
O my sister,
Save beside Sigurd."
Then spake Gudrun,
Giuki's daughter --
"Such was my Sigurd
Among the sons of Giuki,
As is the king leek
O'er the low grass waxing,
Or a bright stone
Strung on band,
Or a pearl of price
On a prince's brow.
"Once was I counted
By the king's warriors
Higher than any
Of Herjan's mays;
Now am I as little
As the leaf may be,
Amid wind-swept wood
Now when dead he lieth.
I miss from my seat,
I miss from my bed,
My darling of sweet speech.
Wrought the sons of Giuki,
Wrought the sons of Giuki,
This sore sorrow,
Yea, for their sister,
Most sore sorrow.
"So may your lands
Lie waste on all sides,
As ye have broken
Your bounden oaths!
Ne'er shalt thou, Gunnar,
The gold have joy of;
The dear-bought rings
Shall drag thee to death,
Whereon thou swarest
Oath unto Sigurd.
Ah, in the days by-gone
Great mirth in the homefield
When my Sigurd
Set saddle on Grani,
And they went their ways
For the wooing of Brynhild!
An ill day, an ill woman,
And most ill hap!"
Then spake Brynhild,
Budli's daughter --
"May the woman lack
Both love and children,
Who gained greeting
For thee, O Gudrun!
Who gave thee this morning
Then spake Gullrond,
Giuki's daughter --
"Hold peace of such words
Thou hated of all folk!
The bane of brave men
Hast thou been ever,
All waves of ill
Wash over thy mind,
To seven great kings
Hast thou been a sore sorrow,
And the death of good will
To wives and women."
Then spake Brynhild,
Budli's daughter --
"None but Atli
Brought bale upon us,
My very brother
Born of Budli.
When we saw in the hall
Of the Hunnish people
The gold a-gleaming
On the kingly Giukings;
I have paid for that faring
Oft and Full,
And for the sight
That then I saw."
By a pillar she stood
And strained its wood to her;
From the eyes of Brynhild,
Flashed out fire,
And she snorted forth venom,
As the sore wounds she gazed on
Of the dead-slain Sigurd.
(1) This chapter is the Eddaic poem, called the first Lay of
Gudrun, inserted here by the translators.
Of the Ending of Brynhild.
And now none might know for what cause Brynhild must bewail with
weeping for what she had prayed for with laughter: but she spake
"Such a dream I had, Gunnar, as that my bed was acold, and that
thou didst ride into the hands of thy foes: lo now, ill shall it
go with thee and all thy kin, O ye breakers of oaths; for on the
day thou slayedst him, dimly didst thou remember how thou didst
blend thy blood with the blood of Sigurd, and with an ill reward
hast thou rewarded him for all that he did well to thee; whereas
he gave unto thee to be the mightiest of men; and well was it
proven how fast he held to his oath sworn, when he came to me and
laid betwixt us the sharp-edged sword that in venom had been made
hard. All too soon did ye fall to working wrong against him and
against me, whenas I abode at home with my father, and had all
that I would, and had no will that any one of you should be any
of mine, as ye rode into our garth, ye three kings together; but
then Atli led me apart privily, and asked me if I would not have
him who rode Grani; yea, a man nowise like unto you; but in
those days I plighted myself to the son of King Sigmund and no
other; and lo, now, no better shall ye fare for the death of me."
Then rose up Gunnar, and laid his arms about her neck, and
besought her to live and have wealth from him; and all others in
likewise letted her from dying; but she thrust them all from her,
and said that it was not the part of any to let her in that which
was her will.
Then Gunnar called to Hogni, and prayed him for counsel, and bade
him go to her, and see if he might perchance soften her dreadful
heart, saying withal, that now they had need enough on their
hands in the slaking of her grief, till time might get over.
But Hogni answered, "Nay, let no man hinder her from dying; for
no gain will she be to us, nor has she been gainsome since she
Now she bade bring forth much gold, and bade all those come
thither who would have wealth: then she caught up a sword, and
thrust it under her armpit, and sank aside upon the pillows, and
said, "Come, take gold whoso will!"
But all held their peace, and she said, "Take the gold, and be
And therewith she spake unto Gunnar, "Now for a little while will
I tell of that which shall come to pass hereafter; for speedily
shall ye be at one again with Gudrun by the rede of Grimhild the
Wise-wife; and the daughter of Gudrun and Sigurd shall be called
Swanhild, the fairest of all women born. Gudrun shall be given
to Atli, yet not with her good will. Thou shalt be fain to get
Oddrun, but that shall Atli forbid thee; but privily shall ye
meet, and much shall she love thee. Atli shall bewray thee, and
cast thee into a worm-close, and thereafter shall Atli and his
Sons be slain, and Gudrun shall be their slayer; and afterwards
shall the great waves bear her to the burg of King Jonakr, to
whom she shall bear sons of great fame: Swanhild shall be sent
from the land and given to King Jormunrek; and her shall bite the
rede of Bikki, and therewithal is the kin of you clean gone; and
more sorrow therewith for Gudrun.
"And now I pray thee, Gunnar, one last boon. -- Let make a great
bale on the plain meads for all of us; for me and for Sigurd, and
for those who were slain with him, and let that be covered over
with cloth dyed red by the folk of the Gauls, (1) and burn me
thereon on one side of the King of the Huns, and on the other
those men of mine, two at the head and two at the feet, and two
hawks withal; and even so is all shared equally; and lay there
betwixt us a drawn sword, as in the other days when we twain
stepped into one bed together; and then may we have the name of
man and wife, nor shall the door swing to at the heel of him as I
go behind him. Nor shall that be a niggard company if there
follow him those five bond-women and eight bondmen, whom my
father gave me, and those burn there withal who were slain with
"Now more yet would I say, but for my wounds, but my life-breath
flits; the wounds open, -- yet have I said sooth."
Now is the dead corpse of Sigurd arrayed in olden wise, and a
mighty bale is raised, and when it was somewhat kindled, there
was laid thereon the dead corpse of Sigurd Fafnir's-bane, and his
son of three winters whom Brynhild had let slay, and Guttorm
withal; and when the bale was all ablaze, thereunto was Brynhild
borne out, when she had spoken with her bower-maidens, and bid
them take the gold that she would give; and then died Brynhild,
and was burned there by the side of Sigurd, and thus their life-
(1) The original has "raudu manna blodi", red-dyed in the blood
of men; the Sagaman's original error in dealing with the
word "Valaript" in the corresponding passage of the short
lay of Sigurd. -- Tr.
Gudrun wedded to Alii.
Now so it is, that whoso heareth these tidings sayeth, that no
such an one as was Sigurd was left behind him in the world, nor
ever was such a man brought forth because of all the worth of
him, nor may his name ever minish by eld in the Dutch Tongue nor
in all the Northern Lands, while the world standeth fast.
The story tells that, on a day, as Gudrun sat in her bower, she
fell to saying, "Better was life in those days when I had Sigurd;
he who was far above other men as gold is above iron, or the leek
over other grass of the field, or the hart over other wild
things; until my brethren begrudged me such a man, the first and
best of all men; and so they might not sleep or they had slain
him. Huge clamour made Grani when he saw his master and lord
sore wounded, and then I spoke to him even as with a man, but he
fell drooping down to the earth, for he knew that Sigurd was
Thereafter Gudrun gat her gone into the wild woods, and heard on
all ways round about her the howling of wolves, and deemed death
a merrier thing than life. Then she went till she came to the
hall of King Alf, and sat there in Denmark with Thora, the
daughter of Hakon, for seven seasons, and abode with good
welcome. And she set forth her needlework before her and did
thereinto many deeds and great, and fair plays after the fashion
of those days, swords and byrnies, and all the gear of kings, and
the ship of King Sigmund sailing along the land; yea, and they
wrought there how they fought, Sigar and Siggeir, south in Fion.
Such was their disport; and now Gudrun was somewhat solaced of
So Grimhild comes to hear where Gudrun has take up her abode, and
she calls her sons to talk with her, and asks whether they will
make atonement to Gudrun for her son and her husband, and said
that it was but meet and right to do so.
Then Gunnar spake, and said that he would atone for her sorrows
So they send for their friends, and array their horses, their
helms, and their shields, and their byrnies, and all their war-
gear; and their journey was furnished forth in the noblest wise,
and no champion who was of the great men might abide at home; and
their horses were clad in mail-coats, and every knight of them
had his helm done over with gold or with silver.
Grimhild was of their company, for she said that their errand
would never be brought fairly to pass if she sat at home.
There were well five hundred men, and noble men rode with them.
There was Waldemar of Denmark, and Eymod and Jarisleif withal.
So they went into the hall of King Alf, and there abode them the
Longbeards and Franks, and Saxons: they fared with all their war-
gear, and had over them red fur-coats. Even as the song says --
"Byrnies short cut,
Strong helms hammered,
Girt with good swords,
Red hair gleaming."
They were fain to choose good gifts for their sister, and spake
softly to her, but in none of them would she trow. Then Gunnar
brought unto her a drink mingled with hurtful things, and this
she must needs drink, and with the king thereof she had no more
memory of their guilt against her.
But in that drink was blended the might of the earth and the sea
with the blood of her son; and in that horn were all letters cut
and reddened with blood, as is said hereunder --
"On the horn's face were there
All the kin of letters
Cut aright and reddened,
How should I rede them rightly?
The ling-fish long
Of the land of Hadding,
And wild things' inwards.
In that beer were mingled
Many ills together,
Blood of all the wood
And brown-burnt acorns,
The black dew of the hearth,
The God-doomed dead beast's inwards,
And the swine's liver sodden
Because all wrongs that deadens.
And so now, when their hearts are-brought anigh to each other,
great cheer they made: then came Grimhild to Gudrun, and spake.
"All hail to thee, daughter! I give thee gold and all kinds of
good things to take to thee after thy father, dear bought rings
and bed-gear of the maids of the Huns, the most courteous and
well dight of all women; and thus is thy husband atoned for: and
thereafter shalt thou be given to Atli, the mighty king, and be
mistress of all his might. Cast not all thy friends aside for
one man's sake, but do according to our bidding."
Gudrun answers, "Never will I wed Atli the King; unseemly it is
for us to get offspring betwixt us."
Grimhild says, "Nourish not thy wrath; it shall be to thee as if
Sigurd and Sigmund were alive when thou hast borne sons."
Gudrun says, "I cannot take my heart from thoughts of him, for he
was the first of all men."
Grimhild says, "So it is shapen that thou must have this king and
Says Gudrun, "Give not this man to me, for an evil thing shall
come upon thy kin from him, and to his own sons shall he deal
evil, and be rewarded with a grim revenge thereafter."
Then waxed Grimhild fell at those words, and spake, "Do even as
we bid thee, and take therefore great honour, and our friendship,
and the steads withal called Vinbjorg and Valbjorg."
And such might was in the words of her, that even so must it come
Then Gudrun spake, "Thus then must it needs befall, howsoever
against the will of me, and for little joy shall it be and for
Then men leaped on their horses, and their women were set in
wains. So they fared four days a-riding and other four
a-shipboard, and yet four more again by land and road, till at
the last they came to a certain high-built hall; then came to
meet Gudrun many folk thronging; and an exceedingly goodly feast
was there made, even as the word had gone between either kin, and
it passed forth in most proud and stately wise. And at that
feast drinks Atli his bridal with Gudrun, but never did her heart
laugh on him, and little sweet and kind was their life together.
Atli bids the Giukings to him.
Now tells the tale that on a night King Atli woke from sleep and
spake to Gudrun --
"Medreamed," said he, "that thou didst thrust me through with a
Then Gudrun areded the dream, and said that it betokened fire,
whenas folk dreamed of iron. "It befalls of thy pride belike, in
that thou deemest thyself the first of men,"
Atli said, "Moreover I dreamed that here waxed two sorb-tree (1)
saplings, and fain I was that they should have no scathe of me;
then these were riven up by the roots and reddened with blood,
and borne to the bench, and I was bidden eat thereof.
"Yea, yet again I dreamed that two hawks flew from my hand hungry
and unfed, and fared to hell, and meseemed their hearts were
mingled with honey, and that I ate thereof.
"And then again I dreamed that two fair whelps lay before me
yelling aloud, and that the flesh of them I ate, though my will
went not with the eating."
Gudrun says, "Nowise good are these dreams, yet shall they come
to pass; surely thy sons are nigh to death, and many heavy things
shall fall upon us."
"Yet again I dreamed," said he, "and methought I lay in a bath,
and folk took counsel to slay me."
Now these things wear away with time, but in nowise was their
life together fond.
Now falls Atli to thinking of where may be gotten that plenteous
gold which Sigurd had owned, but King Gunnar and his brethren
were lords thereof now.
Atli was a great king and mighty, wise, and a lord of many men;
and now he falls to counsel with his folk as to the ways of them.
He wotted well that Gunnar and his brethren had more wealth than
any others might have, and so he falls to the rede of sending men
to them, and bidding them to a great feast, and honouring them in
diverse wise, and the chief of those messengers was hight Vingi.
Now the queen wots of their conspiring, and misdoubts her that
this would mean some beguiling of her brethren: so she cut runes,
and took a gold ring, and knit therein a wolf's hair, and gave it
into the hands of the king's messengers.
Thereafter they go their ways according to the king's bidding:
and or ever they came aland Vingi beheld the runes, and turned
them about in such wise as if Gudrun prayed her brethren in her
runes to go meet King Atli.
Thereafter they came to the hall of King Gunnar, and had good
welcome at his hands, and great fires were made for them, and in
great joyance they drank of the best of drink.
Then spake Vingi, "King Atli sends me hither, and is fain that ye
go to his house and home in all glory, and take of him exceeding
honours, helms and shields, swords and byrnies, gold and goodly
raiment, horses, hosts of war, and great and wide lands, for,
saith he, he is fainest of all things to bestow his realm and
lordship upon you."
Then Gunnar turned his head aside, and spoke to Hogni --
"In what wise shall we take this bidding? Might and wealth he
bids us take; but no kings know I who have so much gold as we
have, whereas we have all the hoard which lay once on Gnitaheath;
and great are our chambers, and full of gold, and weapons for
smiting, and all kinds of raiment of war, and well I wot that
amidst all men my horse is the best, and my sword the sharpest
and my gold the most glorious."
Hogni answers, "A marvel is it to me of his bidding, for seldom
hath he done in such a wise, and ill counselled will it be to
wend to him; lo now, when I saw those dear-bought things the king
sends us I wondered to behold a wolfs hair knit to a certain gold
ring; belike Gudrun deems him to be minded as a wolf towards us,
and will have naught of our faring."
But withal Vingi shows him the runes which he said Gudrun had
Now the most of folk go to bed, but these drank on still with
certain others; and Kostbera, the wife of Hogni, the fairest of
women, came to them, and looked on the runes.
But the wife of Gunnar was Glaumvor, a great hearted wife.
So these twain poured out, and the kings drank and were exceeding
drunken, and Vingi notes it, and says --
"Naught may I hide that King Atli is heavy of foot and over-old
for the warding of his realm; but his sons are young and of no
account: now will he give you rule over his realms while they are
yet thus young, and most fain will he be that ye have the joy
thereof before all others."
Now so it befell both that Gunnar was drunk, and that dominion
was held out to him, nor might he work against the fate shapen
for him; so he gave his word to go, and tells Hogni his brother
But he answered, "Thy word given must even stand now, nor will I
fail to follow thee, but most loth am I to journey."
(1) Service-tree; "pyrus sorbus domestica", or "p. s.
The Dreams of the Wives of the Giukings.
So when men had drunk their fill, they fared to sleep; then falls
Kostbera to beholding the runes, and spelling over the letters,
and sees that beneath were other things cut, and that the runes
are guileful, yet because of her wisdom she had skill to read
them aright. So then she goes to bed by her husband; but when
they awoke, she spake unto Hogni --
"Thou art minded to wend away from home -- ill-counselled is
that; abide till another time! Scarce a keen reader of runes art
thou, if thou deemest thou hast beheld in them the bidding of thy
sister to this journey: lo, I read them the runes, and had marvel
of so wise a woman as Gudrun is, that she should have miscut
them; but that which lieth underneath beareth your bane with it,
-- yea, either she lacked a letter, or others have dealt
guilefully with the runes.
"And now hearken to my dream; for therein methought there fell in
upon us here a river exceeding strong, and brake up the timbers
of the hall."
He answered, "Full oft are ye evil of mind, ye women, but for me,
I was not made in such wise as to meet men with evil who deserve
no evil; belike he will give us good welcome."
She answered, "Well, the thing must ye yourselves prove, but no
friendship follows this bidding: -- but yet again I dreamed that
another river fell in here with a great and grimly rush, and tore
up the dais of the hall, and brake the legs of both you brethren;
surely that betokeneth somewhat."
He answers, "Meadows along our way, whereas thou didst dream of
the river; for when we go through the meadows, plentifully doth
the seeds of the hay hang about our legs."
"Again I dreamed," she says, "that thy cloak was afire, and that
the flame blazed up above the hall."
Says he, "Well, I wot what that shall betoken; here lieth my
fair-dyed raiment, and it shall burn and blaze, whereas thou
dreamedst of the cloak."
"Methought a bear came in," she says, "and brake up the king's
high-seat, and shook his paws in such a wise that we were all
adrad thereat, and he gat us all together into the mouth of him,
so that we might avail us naught, and thereof fell great horror
He answered, "Some great storm will befall, whereas thou hadst a
white bear in thy mind."
"An erne methought came in," she says, "and swept adown the hall,
and drenched me and all of us with blood, and ill shall that
betoken, for methought it was the double of King Atli."
He answered, "Full oft do we slaughter beasts freely, and smite
down great neat for our cheer, and the dream of the erne has but
to do with oxen; yea, Atli is heart-whole toward us."
And therewithal they cease this talk.
Of the Journey of the Giukings to King Atli.
Now tells the tale of Gunnar, that in the same wise it fared with
him; for when they awoke, Glaumvor his wife told him many dreams
which seemed to her like to betoken guile coming; but Gunnar
areded them all in other wise.
"This was one of them," said she; "methought a bloody sword was
borne into the hall here, wherewith thou wert thrust through, and
at either end of that wolves howled."
The king answered, "Our dogs shall bite me belike; blood-stained
weapons oft betoken dogs' snappings."
She said, "Yet again I dreamed -- that women came in, heavy and
drooping, and chose thee for their mate; may-happen these would
be thy fateful women."
He answered, "Hard to arede is this, and none may set aside the
fated measure of his days, nor is it unlike that my time is
So in the morning they arose, and were minded for the journey,
but some letted them herein.
Then cried Gunnar to the man who is called Fjornir --
"Arise, and give us to drink goodly wine from great tuns, because
may happen this shall be very last of all our feasts; belike if
we die the old wolf shall come by the gold, and that bear shall
nowise spare the bite of his war-tusks."
Then all the folk of his household brought them on their way
The son of Hogni said --
"Fare ye well with merry tide."
The more part of their folk were left behind; Solar and Gnoevar,
the sons of Hogni, fared with them, and a great champion, named
Orkning, who was the brother of Kostbera.
So folk followed them down to the ships, and all fetted them of
their journey, but attained to naught therein.
Then spake Glaumvor, and said --
"O Vingi, most like that great ill hap will come of thy coming,
and mighty and evil things shall betide in thy travelling."
He answered, "Hearken to my answer; that I lie not aught: and may
the high gallows and all things of grame have me, if I lie one
Then cried Kostbera, "Fare ye well with merry days."
And Hogni answered, "Be glad of heart, howsoever it may fare with
And therewith they parted, each to their own fate. Then away
they rowed, so hard and fast, that well-nigh the half of the keel
slipped away from the ship, and so hard they laid on to the oars
that thole and gunwale brake.
But when they came aland they made their ship fast, and then they
rode awhile on their noble steeds through the murk wild-wood.
And now they behold the king's army, and huge uproar, and the
clatter of weapons they hear from thence; and they see there a
mighty host of men, and the manifold array of them, even as they
wrought there: and all the gates of the burg were full of men.
So they rode up to the burg, and the gates thereof were shut;
then Hogni brake open the gates, and therewith they ride into the
Then spake Vingi, "Well might ye have left this deed undone; go
to now, bide ye here while I go seek your gallows-tree! Softly
and sweetly I base you hither, but an evil thing abode
thereunder; short while to bide ere ye are tied up to that same
Hogni answered, "None the more shall we waver for that cause; for
little methinks have we shrunk aback whenas men fell to fight;
and naught shall it avail thee to make us afeard, -- and for an
ill fate hast thou wrought."
And therewith they cast him down to earth, and smote him with
their axe-hammers till he died.
(1) Parallel beliefs to those in the preceding chapters, and
elsewhere in this book, as to spells, dreams, drinks, etc.,
among the English people may be found in "Leechdoms,
Wortcunning, and Starcraft of the Anglo-Saxons; being a
collection of Documents illustrating the History of Science
in this Country before the Norman Conquest". Ed: Rev. T. O.
Cockayne, M.A. (3 vols.) Longmans, London, 1864, 8vo.
The Battle in the Burg of King Atli.
Then they rode unto the king's hall, and King Atli arrayed his
host for battle, and the ranks were so set forth that a certain
wall there was betwixt them and the brethren.
"Welcome hither," said he. "Deliver unto me that plenteous gold
which is mine of right; even the wealth which Sigurd once owned,
and which is now Gudrun's of right."
Gunnar answered, "Never gettest thou that wealth; and men of
might must thou meet here, or ever we lay by life if thou wilt
deal with us in battle; ah, belike thou settest forth this feast
like a great man, and wouldst not hold thine hand from erne and
"Long ago I had it in my mind," said Atli, to take the lives of
you, and be lord of the gold, and reward you for that deed of
shame, wherein ye beguiled the best of all your affinity; but now
shall I revenge him."
Hogni answered, "Little will it avail to lie long brooding over
that rede, leaving the work undone."
And therewith they fell to hard fighting, at the first brunt with
But therewithal came the tidings to Gudrun, and when she heard
thereof she grew exceeding wroth, and cast her mantle from her,
and ran out and greeted those new-comers, and kissed her
brethren, and showed them all love, -- and the last of all
greetings was that betwixt them.
Then said she, "I thought I had set forth counsel whereby ye
should not come hither, but none may deal with his shapen fate."
And withal she said, "Will it avail aught to seek for peace?"
But stoutly and grimly they said nay thereto. So she sees that
the game goeth sorely against her brethren, and she gathers to
her great stoutness of heart, and does on her a mail-coat and
takes to her a sword, and fights by her brethren, and goes as far
forward as the bravest of man-folk; and all spoke in one wise
that never saw any fairer defence than in her.
Now the men fell thick, and far before all others was the
fighting of those brethren, and the battle endured a long while
unto midday; Gunnar and Hogni went right through the folk of
Atli, and so tells the tale that all the mead ran red with blood;
the sons of Hogni withal set on stoutly.
Then spake Atli the king, "A fair host and a great have we, and
mighty champions withal, and yet have many of us fallen, and but
evil am I apaid in that nineteen of my champions are slain, and
but left six alive."
And therewithal was there a lull in the battle.
Then spake Atli the king, "Four brethren were we, and now am I
left alone; great affinity I gat to me, and deemed my fortune
well sped thereby; a wife I had, fair and wise, high of mind, and
great of heart; but no joyance may I have of her wisdom, for
little peace is betwixt us, -- but ye -- ye have slain many of my
kin, and beguiled me of realm and riches, and for the greatest of
all woes have slain my sister withal."
Quoth Hogni, "Why babblest thou thus? Thou wert the first to
break the peace. Thou didst take my kinswoman and pine her to
death by hunger, and didst murder her, and take her wealth; an
ugly deed for a king! -- meet for mocking and laughter I deem it,
that thou must needs make long tale of thy woes; rather will I
give thanks to the Gods that thou fallest into ill."
Of the slaying of the Giukings.
Now King Atli eggs on his folk to set on fiercely, and eagerly
they fight; but the Giukings fell on so hard that King Atli gave
back into the hall, and within doors was the fight, and fierce
beyond all fights.
That battle was the death of many a man, but such was the ending
thereof, that there fell all the folk of those brethren, and they
twain alone stood up on their feet, and yet many more must fare
to hell first before their weapons.
And now they fell on Gunnar the king, and because of the host of
men that set on him was hand laid on him, and he was cast into
fetters; afterwards fought Hogni, with the stoutest heart and the
greatest manlihood; and he felled to earth twenty of the stoutest
of the champions of King Atli, and many he thrust into the fire
that burnt amidst the hall, and all were of one accord that such
a man might scarce be seen; yet in the end was he borne down by
many and taken.
Then said King Atli, "A marvellous thing how many men have gone
their ways before him! Cut the heart from out of him, and let
that be his bane!"
Hogni said, "Do according to thy will; merrily will I abide
whatso thou writ do against me; and thou shalt see that my heart
is not adrad, for hard matters have I made trial of ere now, and
all things that may try a man was I fain to bear, whiles yet I
was unhurt; but now sorely am I hurt, and thou alone henceforth
will bear mastery in our dealings together."
Then spake a counsellor of King Atli, "Better rede I see thereto;
take we the thrall Hjalli, and give respite to Hogni; for this
thrall is made to die, since the longer he lives the less worth
shall he be."
The thrall hearkened, and cried out aloft, and fled away
anywhither where he might hope for shelter, crying out that a
hard portion was his because of their strife and wild doings, and
an ill day for him whereon he must be dragged to death from his
sweet life and his swine-keeping. But they caught him, and
turned a knife against him, and he yelled and screamed or ever he
felt the point thereof.
Then in such wise spake Hogni as a man seldom speaketh who is
fallen into hard need, for he prayed for the thrall's life, and
said that these shrieks he could not away with, and that it were
a lesser matter to him to play out the play to the end; and
therewithal the thrall gat his life as for that time: but Gunnar
and Hogni are both laid in fetters.
Then spake King Atli with Gunnar the king, and bade him tell out
concerning the gold, and where it was, if he would have his life.
But he answered, "Nay, first will I behold the bloody heart of
Hogni, my brother."
So now they caught hold of the thrall again, and cut the heart
from out of him, and bore it unto King Gunnar, but he said --
"The faint heart of Hjalli may ye here behold, little like the
proud heart of Hogni, for as much as it trembleth now more by the
half it trembled whenas it lay in the breast of him."
So now they fell on Hogni even as Atli urged them, and cut the
heart from out of him, but such was the might of his manhood,
that he laughed while he abode that torment, and all wondered at
his worth, and in perpetual memory is it held sithence. (1)
Then they showed it to Gunnar, and he said --
"The mighty heart of Hogni, little like the faint heart of
Hjalli, for little as it trembleth now, less it trembled whenas
in his breast it lay! But now, O Atli, even as we die so shalt
thou die; and lo, I alone wot where the gold is, nor shall Hogni
be to tell thereof now; to and fro played the matter in my mind
whiles we both lived, but now have I myself determined for
myself, and the Rhine river shall rule over the gold, rather than
that the Huns shall bear it on the hands of them."
Then said King Atli, "Have away the bondsman;" and so they did.
But Gudrun called to her men, and came to Atli, and said --
"May it fare ill with thee now and from henceforth, even as thou
hast ill held to thy word with me!"
So Gunnar was cast into a worm-close, and many worms abode him
there, and his hands were fast bound; but Gudrun sent him a harp,
and in such wise did he set forth his craft, that wisely he smote
the harp, smiting it with his foes, and so excellently well he
played, that few deemed they had heard such playing, even when
the hand had done it. And with such might and power he played,
that all worms fell asleep in the end, save one adder only, great
and evil of aspect, that crept unto him and thrust its sting into
him until it smote his heart; and in such wise with great
hardihood he ended his life days.
(1) Since ("sidh", after, and "dham", that.).
The End of Atli and his Kin and Folk.
Now thought Atli the King that he had gained a mighty victory,
and spake to Gudrun even as mocking her greatly, or as making
himself great before her. "Gudrun," saith he, "thus hast thou
lost thy brethren, and thy very self hast brought it about."
She answers, "In good liking livest thou, whereas thou thrustest
these slayings before me, but mayhappen thou wilt rue it, when
thou hast tried what is to come hereafter; and of all I have, the
longest-lived matter shall be the memory of thy cruel heart, nor
shall it go well with thee whiles I live."
He answered and said, "Let there be peace betwixt us; I will
atone for thy brethren with gold and dear-bought things, even as
thy heart may wish."
She answers, "Hard for a long while have I been in our dealings
together, and now I say, that while Hogni was yet alive thou
mightest have brought it to pass; but now mayest thou never atone
for my brethren in my heart; yet oft must we women be overborne
by the might of you men; and now are all my kindred dead and
gone, and thou alone art left to rule over me: wherefore now this
is my counsel that we make a great feast; wherein I will hold the
funeral of my brother and of thy kindred withal."
In such wise did she make herself soft and kind in words, though
far other things forsooth lay thereunder, but he hearkened to her
gladly, and trusted in her words, whereas she made herself sweet
So Gudrun held the funeral feast for her brethren, and King Atli
for his men, and exceeding proud and great was this feast.
But Gudrun forgat not her woe, but brooded over it, how she might
work some mighty shame against the king; and at nightfall she
took to her the sons of King Atli and her as they played about
the floor; the younglings waxed heavy of cheer, and asked what
she would with them.
"Ask me not," she said; "ye shall die, the twain of you!"
Then they answered, "Thou mayest do with thy children even as
thou wilt, nor shall any hinder thee, but shame there is to thee
in the doing of this deed."
Yet for all that she cut the throats of them.
Then the king asked where his sons were, and Gudrun answered, "I
will tell thee, and gladden thine heart by the telling; lo now,
thou didst make a great woe spring up for me in the slaying of my
brethren; now hearken and hear my rede and my deed; thou hast
lost thy sons, and their heads are become beakers on the board
here, and thou thyself hast drunken the blood of them blended
with wine; and their hearts I took and roasted them on a spit,
and thou hast eaten thereof."
King Atli answered, "Grim art thou in that thou hast murdered thy
sons, and given me their flesh to eat, and little space passes
betwixt ill deed of thine and ill deed."
Gudrun said, "My heart is set on the doing to thee of as great
shame as may be; never shall the measure ill be of full to such a
king as thou art."
The king said, "Worser deeds hast thou done than men have to tell
of, and great unwisdom is there in such fearful redes; most meet
art thou to be burned on bale when thou hast first been smitten
to death with stones, for in such wise wouldst thou have what
thou hast gone a weary way to seek."
She answered, "Thine own death thou foretellest, but another
death is fated for me."
And many other words they spake in their wrath.
Now Hogni had a son left alive, hight Niblung, and great wrath of
heart he bare against King Atli; and he did Gudrun to wit that he
would avenge his father. And she took his words well, and they
fell to counsel together thereover, and she said it would be
great goodhap if it might be brought about.
So on a night, when the king had drunken, he gat him in bed, and
when he was laid asleep, thither to him came Gudrun and the son
Gudrun took a sword and thrust it through the breast of King
Atli, and they both of them set their hands to the deed, both she
and the son of Hogni.
Then Atli the king awoke with the wound, and cried out; "No need
of binding or salving here! -- who art thou who hast done the
Gudrun says, "Somewhat have I, Gudrun, wrought therein, and
somewhat withal the son of Hogni."
Atli said, "Ill it beseemed to thee to do this, though somewhat
of wrong was between us; for thou wert wedded to me by the rede
of thy kin, and dower paid I for thee; yea, thirty goodly
knights, and seemly maidens, and many men besides; and yet wert
thou not content, but if thou should rule over the lands King
Budli owned: and thy mother-in-law full oft thou lettest sit
Gudrun said, "Many false words hast thou spoken, and of naught I
account them; oft, indeed, was I fell of mood, but much didst
thou add thereto. Full oft in this thy house did frays befall,
and kin fought kin, and friend fought friend, and made themselves
big one against the other; better days had I whenas I abode with
Sigurd, when we slew kings, and took their wealth to us, but gave
peace to whomso would, and the great men laid themselves under
our hands, and might we gave to him of them who would have it;
then I lost him, and a little thing was it that I should bear a
widow's name, but the greatest of griefs that I should come to
thee -- I who had aforetime the noblest of all kings, while for
thee, thou never barest out of the battle aught but the worser
King Atli answered, "Naught true are thy words, nor will this our
speech better the lot of either of us, for all is fallen now to
naught; but now do to me in seemly wise, and array my dead corpse
in noble fashion."
"Yea, that will I," she says, "and let make for thee a goodly
grave, and build for thee a worthy abiding place of stone, and
wrap thee in fair linen, and care for all that needful is."
So therewithal he died, and she did according to her word: and
then they cast fire into the hall.
And when the folk and men of estate awoke amid that dread and
trouble, naught would they abide the fire, but smote each the
other down, and died in such wise; so there Atli the king, and
all his folk, ended their life-days. But Gudrun had no will to
live longer after this deed so wrought, but nevertheless her
ending day was not yet come upon her.
Now the Volsungs and the Giukings, as folk tell in tale, have
been the greatest-hearted and the mightiest of all men, as ye may
well behold written in the songs of old time.
But now with the tidings just told were these troubles stayed.
How Gudrun cast herself into the Sea, but was brought ashore
Gudrun had a daughter by Sigurd hight Swanhild; she was the
fairest of all women, eager-eyed as her father, so that few durst
look under the brows of her; and as far did she excel other
woman-kind as the sun excels the other lights of heaven.
But on a day went Gudrun down to the sea, and caught up stones in
her arms, and went out into the sea, for she had will to end her
life. But mighty billows drave her forth along the sea, and by
means of their upholding was she borne along till she came at the
last to the burg of King Jonakr, a mighty king, and lord of many
folk. And he took Gudrun to wife, and their children were
Hamdir, and Sorli, and Erp; and there was Swanhild nourished
Of the Wedding and Slaying of Swanhild.
Jormunrek was the name of a mighty king of those days, and his
son was called Randver. Now this king called his son to talk
with him, and said, "Thou shalt fair on an errand of mine to King
Jonakr, with my counsellor Bikki, for with King Jonakr is
nourished Swanhild, the daughter of Sigurd Fafnir's-bane; and I
know for sure that she is the fairest may dwelling under the sun
of this world; her above all others would I have to my wife, and
thou shalt go woo her for me"
Randver answered, "Meet and right, fair lord, that I should go on
So the king set forth this journey in seemly wise, and they fare
till they come to King Jonakr's abode, and behold Swanhild, and
have many thoughts concerning the treasure of her goodliness.
But on a day Randver called the king to talk with him, and said,
"Jormunrek the King would fain be thy brother-in-law, for he has
heard tell of Swanhild, and his desire it is to have her to wife,
nor may it be shown that she may be given to any mightier man
than he is one."
The King says, "This is an alliance of great honour, for a man of
fame he is."
Gudrun says, "A wavering trust, the trust in luck that change
Yet because of the king's furthering, and all the matters that
went herewith, is the wooing accomplished; and Swanhild went to
the ship with a goodly company, and sat in the stem beside the
Then spake Bikki to Randver, "How good and right it were if thou
thyself had to wife so lovely a woman rather than the old man
Good seemed that word to the heart of the king's son, and he
spake to her with sweet words, and she to him like wise.
So they came aland and go unto the king, and Bikki said to him,
"Meet and right it is, lord, that thou shouldst know what is
befallen, though hard it be to tell of, for the tale must be
concerning thy beguiling, whereas thy son has gotten to him the
full love of Swanhild, nor is she other than his harlot; but
thou, let not the deed be unavenged."
Now many an ill rede had he given the king or this, but of all
his ill redes did this sting home the most; and still would the
king hearken to all his evil redes; wherefore he, who might
nowise still the wrath within him, cried out that Randver should
be taken and tied up to the gallows-tree.
And as he was led to the gallows he took his hawk and plucked the
feathers from off it, and bade show it to his father; and when
the king saw it, then he said, "Now may folk behold that he
deemeth my honour to be gone away from me, even as the feathers
of this hawk;" and therewith he bade deliver him from the
But in that while had Bikki wrought his will, and Randver was
Ane, moreover, Bikki spake, "Against none hast thou more wrongs
to avenge thee of than against Swanhild; let her die a shameful
"Yea," said the king, "we will do after thy counsel."
So she was bound in the gate of the burg, and horse were driven
at her to tread her down; but when she opened her eyes wide, then
the horses durst not trample her; so when Bikki beheld that, he
bade draw a bag over the head of her; and they did so, and
therewith she lost her life. (1)
(1) In the prose Edda the slaying of Swanhild is a spontaneous
and sudden act on the part of the king. As he came back
from hunting one day, there sat Swanhild washing her linen,
and it came into the king's mind how that she was the cause
of all his woe, so he and his men rode over her and slew
her. -- Tr.
Gudrun sends her Sons to avenge 5wanhild.
Now Gudrun heard of the slaying of Swanhild, and spake to her
sons, "Why sit ye here in peace amid many words, whereas
Jormunrek hath slain your sister, and trodden her under foot of
horses in shameful wise? No heart ye have in you like to Gunnar
or Hogni; verily they would have avenged their kinswoman!"
Hamdir answered, "Little didst thou praise Gunnar and Hogni,
whereas they slew Sigurd, and thou wert reddened in the blood of
him, and ill were thy brethren avenged by the slaying of thine
own sons: yet not so ill a deed were it for us to slay King
Jormunrek, and so hard thou pushest on to this that we may naught
abide thy hard words."
Gudrun went about laughing now, and gave them to drink from
mighty beakers, and thereafter she got for them great byrnies and
good, and all other weed (1) of war.
Then spake Hamdir, "Lo now, this is our last parting, for thou
shalt hear tidings of us, and drink one grave-ale (2) over us and
So therewith they went their ways.
But Gudrun went unto her bower, with heart swollen with sorrow,
and spake --
"To three men was I wedded, and first to Sigurd Fafnir's-bane,
and he was bewrayed and slain, and of all griefs was that the
greatest grief. Then was I given to King Atli, and so fell was
my heart toward him that I slew in the fury of my grief his
children and mine. Then gave I myself to the sea, but the
billows thereof cast me out aland, and to this king then was I
given; then gave I Swanhild away out of the land with mighty
wealth; and lo, my next greatest sorrow after Sigurd, for under
horses feet was she trodden and slain; but the grimmest and
ugliest of woes was the casting of Gunnar into the Worm-close,
and the hardest was the cutting of Hogni's heart from him.
"Ah, better would it be if Sigurd came to meet me, and I went my
ways with him, for here bideth now behind with me neither son nor
daughter to comfort me. Oh, mindest thou not, Sigurd, the words
we spoke when we went into one bed together, that thou wouldst
come and look on me; yea, even from thine abiding place among the
And thus had the words of her sorrow an end.
(1) Weed (A.S. "weodo"), clothing.
(2) Grave-ale, burial-feast.
The Latter End of all the Kin of the Giukings.
Now telleth the tale concerning the sons of Gudrun, that she had
arrayed their war-raiment in such wise, that no steel would bite
thereon; and she bade them play not with stones or other heavy
matters, for that it would be to their scathe if they did so.
And now, as they went on their way, they met Erp, their brother,
and asked him in what wise he would help them.
He answered, "Even as hand helps hand, or foot helps foot."
But that they deemed naught at all, and slew him there and then.
Then they went their ways, nor was it long or ever Hamdir
stumbled, and thrust down his hand to steady himself, and spake
"Naught but a true thing spake Erp, for now should I have fallen,
had not hand been to steady me."
A little after Sorli stumbled, but turned about on his feet, and
so stood, and spake --
"Yea now had I fallen, but that I steadied myself with both
And they said they had done evilly with Erp their brother.
But on they fare till they come to the abode of King Jormunrek,
and they went up to him and set on him forthwith, and Hamdir cut
both hands from him and Sorli both feet. Then spake Hamdir --
"Off were the head if Erp were alive; our brother whom we slew on
the way, and found out our deed too late." Even as the Song
"Off were the head
If Erp were alive yet,
Our brother the bold,
Whom we slew by the way,
The well-famed in warfare."
Now in this must they turn away from the words of their mother,
whereas they had to deal with stones. For now men fell on them,
and they defended themselves in good and manly wise, and were the
scathe of many a man, nor would iron bite on them.
But there came thereto a certain man, old of aspect and one-eyed,
(1) and he spake --
"No wise men are ye, whereas ye cannot bring these men to their
Then the king said, "Give us rede thereto, if thou canst."
He said, "Smite them to the death with stones."
In such wise was it done, for the stones flew thick and fast from
every side, and that was the end of their life-days.
And now has come to an end the whole root and stem of the
NOW MAY ALL EARLS
BE BETTERED IN MIND,
MAY THE GRIEF OF ALL MAIDENS
EVER BE MINISHED,
FOR THIS TALE OF TROUBLE
SO TOLD TO ITS ENDING.
(1) Odin; he ends the tale as he began it.
(2) "And now," etc., inserted by translators from the prose
Edda, the stanza at the end from the Whetting of Gudrun.
EXCERPTS FROM THE POETIC EDDA.
PART OF THE SECOND LAY OF HELGI HUNDINGS-BANE (1)
Helgi wedded Sigrun, and they begate sons together, but Helgi
lived not to be old; for Dag, (2) the son of Hogni, sacrificed to
Odin, praying that he might avenge his father. So Odin lent Dag
his spear, and Dag met Helgi, his brother-in-law, at a place
called Fetter-grove, and thrust him through with that spear, and
there fell Helgi dead; but Dag rode to Sevafell, and told Sigrun
of the news.
Loth am I, sister
Of sorrow to tell the,
For by hard need driven
Have I drawn on the greeting;
This morning fell
The king well deemed
The best in the wide world,
Yea, he who stood
On the necks of the strong."
All oaths once sworn
Shall bite thee sore,
The oaths that to Helgi
Once thou swarest
At the bright white
Water of Lightening, (3)
And at the cold rock
That the sea runneth over.
May the ship sweep not on
That should sweep at its swiftest,
Though the wind desired
Behind thee driveth!
May the horse never run
That should run at his most might
When from thy foe's face
Thou hast most need to flee!
May the sword never bite
That thou drawest from scabbard
But and if round thine head
In wrath it singeth!
Then should meet price be paid
For Helgi's slaying
When a wolf thou wert
Out in the wild-wood,
Empty of good things
Empty of gladness,
With no meat for thy mouth
But dead men's corpses!
With mad words thou ravest,
Thy wits are gone from thee,
When thou for thy brother
Such ill fate biddest;
Let all this bale loose,
Casting the strife-runes
'Twixt friends and kindred.
Rings of red gold
Will thy brother give thee,
And the stead of Vandil
And the lands of Vigdale;
Have half of the land
For thy sorrow's healing,
O ring-arrayed sweetling
For thee and thy sons!
No more sit I happy
At day-dawn, at night
Naught love I my life
Till broad o'er the people
My lord's light breaketh;
Till his war-horse runneth
Beneath him hither,
Well wont to the gold bit --
Till my king I welcome.
In such wise did Helgi
Deal fear around
To all his foes
And all their friends
As when the goat runneth
Before the wolf's rage
Filled with mad fear
Down from the fell.
As high above all lords
Did Helgi beat him
As the ash-tree's glory
From the thorn ariseth,
Or as the fawn
With the dew-fell sprinkled
Is far above
All other wild things,
As his horns go gleaming
'Gainst the very heavens.
A barrow was raised above Helgi, but when he came in Valhall,
then Odin bade him be lord of all things there, even as he; so
Helgi sang --
Now shalt thou, Hunding
For the help of each man
Get ready the foot-bath,
And kindle the fire;
The hounds shalt thou bind
And give heed to the horses,
Give wash to the swine
Ere to sleep thou goest.
A bondmaid of Sigrun went in the evening-tide by Helgi's mound,
and there saw how Helgi rode toward it with a great company; then
she sang --
It is vain things' beguilling
That methinks I behold,
Or the ending of all things,
As ye ride, O ye dead men,
Smiting with spurs
Your horses' sides?
Or may dead warriors
Wend their ways homeward?
No vain things' beguiling
Is that thou beholdest,
Nor the ruin of all things;
Though thou lookest upon us,
Though we smite with spurs
Our horses' sides;
Rather dead warriors
May wend their ways homeward.
Then went the bondmaid home, and told Sigrun, and sang --
Go out, Sigrun
If thou listest to look on
The lord of thy people!
For the mound is uncovered
Thither is Helgi come,
And his wounds are bleeding,
But the king thee biddeth
To come and stay
That stream of sorrow.
So Sigrun went into the mound to Helgi, and sang --
Now am I as fain
Of this fair meeting,
As are the hungry
Hawks of Odin,
When they wot of the slaying
Of the yet warm quarry,
Or bright with dew
See the day a-dawning.
Ah, I will kiss
My king laid lifeless,
Ere thou castest by
Thy blood-stained byrny.
O Helgi, thy hair
Is thick with death's rime,
With the dew of the dead
Is my love all dripping;
Dead-cold are the hands
Of the son of Hogni;
How for thee, O my king,
May I win healing?
Thou alone, Sigrun
Hast so done that Helgi
With grief's dew drippeth;
O clad in gold
Cruel tears thou weepest,
Bright May of the Southlands,
Or ever thou sleepest;
Each tear in blood falleth
On the breast of thy lord,
Cold wet and bitter-sharp
Swollen with sorrow.
Ah, we shall drink
Dear draughts and lovely,
Though, we have lost
Both life and lands;
Neither shall any
Sing song of sorrow,
Though in my breast
Be wounds wide to behold:
For now are brides
In the mound abiding;
Kings' daughters sit
By us departed.
Bow Sigrun arrayed a bed in the mound, and sang --
Here, Helgi, for thee
A bed have I dight,
Kind without woe,
O kin of the Ylfings!
To thy bosom, O king,
Will I come and sleep soft,
As I was wont
When my lord was living.
Now will I call
Naught not to be hoped for
Early or late
When thou in the arms
Of a dead man art laid,
White maiden of Hogni,
Here in the mound:
And thou yet quick,
O King's daughter!
Now needs must I ride
On the reddening ways;
My pale horse must tread
The highway aloft;
West must I go
To Windhelm's bridge
Ere the war-winning crowd
Hall-crower (4) waketh.
So Helgi rode his ways: and the others gat them gone home to the
house. But the next night Sigrun bade the bondwoman have heed of
the mound. So at nightfall, thenas Sigrun came to the mound, she
Here now would he come,
If to come he were minded;
From the halls of Odin.
O me the hope waneth
Of Helgi's coming;
For high on the ash-boughs
Are the ernes abiding,
And all folk drift
Toward the Thing of the dreamland.
Be not foolish of heart,
And fare all alone
To the house of the dead,
O Hero's daughter!
For more strong and dreadful
In the night season
Are all dead warriors
Than in the daylight.
But a little while lived Sigrun, because of her sorrow and
trouble. But in old time folk trowed that men should be born
again, though their troth be now deemed but an old wife's
dotting. And so, as folk say, Helgi and Sigrun were born again,
and at that tide was he called Helgi the Scathe of Hadding, and
she Kara the daughter of Halfdan; and she was a Valkyrie, even as
is said in the Lay of Kara.
(1) Only that part of the song is given which completes the
episodes of Helgi Hunding's-bane; the earlier part of the
song differs little from the Saga.
(2) Hogni, the father of Dar and Sigrun, had been slain by Helgi
in battle, and Helgi had given peace to, and taken oaths of
(3) One of the rivers of the under-world.
(4) Hall-crower, "Salgofnir": lit. Hall-gaper, the cock of
PART OF THE LAY OF SIGRDRIFA (1)
Now this is my first counsel,
That thou with thy kin
Be guiltless, guileless ever,
Nor hasty of wrath,
Despite of wrong done --
Unto the dead good that doeth.
Lo the second counsel,
That oath thou swearest never,
But trusty oath and true:
Cursed wretch is the wolf of vows.
This is my third rede,
That thou at the Thing
Deal not with the fools of folk;
For unwise man
From mouth lets fall
Worser word than well he wotteth.
Yet hard it is
That holding of peace
When men shall deem thee dastard,
Or deem the lie said soothly;
But woeful is home-witness,
Unless right good thou gettest it.
Ah, on another day
Drive the life from out him,
And pay the liar back for his lying.
Now behold the fourth rede:
If ill witch thee bideth,