Ch. 11 [Sigmund wins Hjordis]
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 Eylimi.
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 counsel
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
Hjordis hides in the forest]
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
(=breastplate or mail shirt) 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 (=doomsayers) 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.
[Sigmund's sword is broken] 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 [thus recognizable as Odin) and bare
a bill [hooked blade] 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.
escapes] 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 henceforth. 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 -- "Many a man lives
after hope has grown little; but my good-hap has departed from me, nor will I
suffer myself to be healed, nor wills Odin that I should ever draw sword again,
since this my sword and his is broken; lo now, I have waged war while it was
"Naught ill would I deem
matters," said she, "if thou mightest be
healed and avenge my father." The king said, "That is fated for another
man; behold now, thou art great with a man-child; nourish him well; and with
good heed, and the child shall be the noblest and most famed of all our kin:
and keep well withal the shards of the sword: thereof shall a goodly sword be
made, and it shall be called Gram, and our son shall bear it, and shall work
many a great work therewith, even such as eld shall
never minish; for his name shall abide and flourish
as long as the world shall endure: and let this be enow
for thee. But now I grow weary with my wounds, and I will go see our kin that
have gone before me."
[Alf discovers Hjordis]
So Hjordis sat
over him till he died at the day-dawning; and then she looked, and behold,
there came many ships sailing to the land: then she spake
to the handmaid -- "Let us now change raiment, and be thou called by my
name, and say that thou art the king's daughter." And thus they did; but
now the vikings behold the
great slaughter of men there, and see where two women fare away thence into the
wood; and they deem that some great tidings must have befallen, and they leaped
ashore from out their ships.
Now the captain of these folks was Alf,
son of Hjalprek, king of Denmark, who was sailing
with his power along the land. So they came into the field among the slain, and
saw how many men lay dead there; then the king bade go seek for the women and
bring them thither, and they did so. He asked them what women they were; and,
little as the thing seems like to be, the bondmaid answered for the twain,
telling of the fall of King Sigmund and King Eylimi,
and many another great man, and who they were withal who had wrought the deed.
Then the king asks if they wotted where the wealth of the king was bestowed;
and then says the bondmaid -- "It may well be deemed that we know full surely
And therewith she guides them to the
place where the treasure lay: and there they found exceeding great wealth; so
that men deem they have never seen so many things of price heaped up together
in one place. All this they bore to the ships of King Alf, and Hjordis and bondmaid with them. Therewith these sail away
to their own realm, and talk how that surely on that
field had fallen the most renowned of kings. So the king sits by the tiller,
but the women abide in the forecastle; but talk he had with the women and held
their counsels of much account. In such wise the king came home to his realm
with great wealth, and he himself was a man exceeding goodly to look on.
But when he had been but a little while
at home, the queen, his mother, asked him why the fairer of the two women had
the fewer rings and the less worthy attire. "I deem," she said,
"that she whom ye have held of least account is the noblest of the
He answered: "I too have misdoubted me, that she is little like a bondwoman, and when we first
met, in seemly wise she greeted noble men. Lo now, we will make trial of the
So on a time as men sat at the drink, the
king sat down to talk with the women, and said: -- "In what wise do ye
note the wearing of the hours, whenas night grows
old, if ye may not see the lights of heaven?" Then says the bondwoman,
"This sign have I, that whenas in my youth I was
wont to drink much in the dawn, so now when I no longer use that manner, I am
yet wont to wake up at that very same tide, and by that token do I know
Then the king laughed and said, "Ill
manners for a king's daughter!" And therewith he turned to Hjordis, and asked her even the same question; but she
answered -- "My father erst gave me a little
gold ring of such nature, that it groweth cold on my
finger in the day-dawning; and that is the sign that I have to know
The king answered: "Enow of gold there, where a very bondmaid bore it! But come
now, thou hast been long enow hid from me; yet if
thou hadst told me all from the beginning, I would
have done to thee as though we had both been one king's children: but better
than thy deeds will I deal with thee, for thou shalt be my wife, and due
jointure will I pay thee whenas thou hast borne me a
She spake therewith
and told out the whole truth about herself: so there was she held in great honour, and deemed the worthiest of women.
Ch.13: The tale tells that Hjordis brought forth a man-child, who was straightly borne
before King Hjalprek (father of Alf), and then was
the king glad thereof, when he saw the keen eyes in the head of him, and he
said that few men would be equal to him or like unto him in any wise. So he was
sprinkled with water,** and had to name Sigurd, of whom all men speak with one speech
and say that none was ever his like for growth and goodliness. He was brought
up in the house of King Hjalprek in great love and honour; and so it is, that whenso
all the noblest men and greatest kings are named in the olden tales, Sigurd is ever put before them all for might and prowess,
for high mind and stout heart; wherewith he was far more abundantly gifted than
any man of the northern parts of the wide world.
So Sigurd waxed
in King Hjalprek's house, and there was no child but
loved him; through him was Hjordis betrothed to King
Alf, and jointure meted to her. Now Sigurd's
foster-father was hight Regin,
the son of Hreidmar; he taught him all manner of
arts, the chess play, and the lore of runes, and the talking of many tongues,
even as the wont was with kings' sons in those days.
But on a day when they were together, Regin asked Sigurd, if he knew
how much wealth his father had owned, and who had the ward thereof; Sigurd answered, and said that the kings kept the ward
thereof. Said Regin, "Dost thou trust them all utterly?"
Sigurd said, "It is seemly that they keep
it till I may do somewhat therewith, for better they know how to guard it than
Another time came Regin
to talk to Sigurd, and said -- "A marvellous thing truly that thou must needs be a horse-boy
to the kings, and go about like a running knave."
"Nay," said Sigurd,
"it is not so, for in all things I have my will,
and whatso thing I desire is granted me with good
will." "Well, then," said Regin,
"ask for a horse of them."
Sigurd, "and that shall I have, whenso I have need thereof." Thereafter Sigurd went to the king, and the king said -- "What
wilt thou have of us?" Then said Sigurd,
"I would even a horse of thee for my disport."
Then said the king, "Choose for
thyself a horse, and whatso thing else thou desirest among my matters."
So the next day went Sigurd
to the wood, and met on the way an old man, long-bearded, that he knew not, who
asked him whither away. Sigurd
said, "I am minded to choose me a horse; come thou, and counsel me
"Well then," said he, "go we and drive them to the river which is called Busil-tarn." They did so, and drave
the horses down into the deeps of the river, and all swam back to land but one
horse; and that horse Sigurd chose for himself; grey
he was of hue, and young of years, great of growth, and fair to look on, nor
had any man yet crossed his back.
Then spake the
grey-beard, "From Sleipnir's kin is this horse
come, and he must be nourished heedfully, for it will be the best of all
horses;" and therewithal he vanished away. So Sigurd
called the horse Grani, the best of all the horses of
the world; nor was the man he met other than Odin himself.
[Regin tells of
the dragon's treasure]
Now yet again spake
Regin to Sigurd, and said
-- "Not enough is thy wealth, and I grieve right sore, that thou must
needs run here and there like s churl's son; but I can tell thee where there is
much wealth for the winning, and great name and honour
to be won in getting of it."
Sigurd asked where that might be, and who had
watch and ward over it. Regin answered, "Fafnir is his name, and but a little way hence he lies, on
the waste of Gnita-heath; and when thou comest there thou mayst well say
that thou hast never seen more gold heaped together in one place, and that none
might desire more treasure, though he were the most ancient and famed of all
I," says Sigurd, "yet know I the fashion of
this worm, and how that none durst go against him, so huge and evil is
he." Regin said, "Nay it is not so, the
fashion and the growth of him is even as of other lingworms,
(=heath serpent?) and an over great tale men make of it; and even so would thy
forefathers have deemed; but thou, though thou be of the kin of the Volsungs, shalt scarce have the heart and mind of those,
who are told of as the first in all deeds of fame."
Sigurd said, "Yea, belike
I have little of their hardihood and prowess, but thou hast naught to do, to
lay a coward's name upon me, when I am scarce out of my childish years. Why dost thou egg me on hereto so busily?" Regin said, "Therein lies a tale which I must needs
tell thee." "Let me hear the same," said Sigurd.
Ch. 14 [Otter's Payment]: "The tale
begins," said Regin.
"Hreidmar was my father's name, a mighty man and
a wealthy: and his first son was named Fafnir, his
second Otter, and I was the third, and the least of them all both for prowess
and good conditions, but I was cunning to work in iron, and silver, and gold,
whereof I could make matters that availed somewhat.
Other skill my brother Otter followed,
and had another nature withal, for he was a great fisher, and above other men
herein; in that he had the likeness of an otter by day, and dwelt ever in the
river, and bare fish to bank in his mouth, and his prey would he ever bring to
our father, and that availed him much: for the most part he kept him in his
otter-gear, and then he would come home, and eat alone, and slumbering, for on
the dry land he might see naught.
But Fafnir was
by far the greatest and grimmest, and would have all things about called his.
"Now," says Regin, "there was a dwarf
called Andvari, who ever abode in that force
(=waterfall) which was called Andvari's force, in the
likeness of a pike, and got meat for himself, for many fish there were in the
force; now Otter, my brother, was ever wont to enter into the force, and bring
fish aland, and lay them one by one on the bank.
And so it befell that Odin, Loki, and Hoenir, as they went their ways, came to Andvari's force, and Otter had taken a salmon, and ate it
slumbering upon the river bank; then Loki took a stone and cast it at Otter, so
that he gat his death thereby; the gods were well
content with their prey, and fell to flaying off the otter's skin; and in the
evening they came to Hreidmar's house, and showed him
what they had taken: thereon he laid hands on them, and doomed them to such
ransom, as that they should fill the otter skin with
gold, and cover it over without with red gold; so they sent Loki to gather gold
together for them; he came to Ran, and got her net, and went therewith to Andvari's force, and cast the net before the pike, and the
pike ran into the net and was taken.
Then said Loki -- "`What fish of all fishes, Swims strong in the flood, But hath
learnt little wit to beware? Thine head must thou buy, From
abiding in hell, And find me the wan waters flame.' "
He answered -- "`Andvari
folk call me, Call Oinn my father, Over
many a force have I fared; For a Norn of ill-luck, This life on me lay, Through
wet ways ever to wade.' "
"So Loki beheld the gold of Andvari, and when [Andvari] had
given up the gold, he had but one ring left, and that also Loki took from him;
then the dwarf went into a hollow of the rocks, and cried out, that that gold-ring,
yea and all the gold withal, should be the bane of every man who should own it
"Now the gods rode with the treasure
to Hreidmar, and fulfilled the otter-skin, and set it
on its feet, and they must cover it over utterly with gold: but when this was
done then Hreidmar came forth, and beheld yet one of
the muzzle hairs, and bade them cover that withal; then Odin drew the ring, Andvari's loom (=treasure), from his hand, and covered up
the hair therewith; then sang Loki -- "`Gold enow,
gold enow, A great weregild,
thou hast, That my head in good hap I may hold; But thou and thy son Are naught
fated to thrive, The bane shall it be of you both.'
"Thereafter," says Regin, "Fafnir slew his
father and murdered him, nor got I aught of the treasure, and so evil he grew,
that he fell to lying abroad, and begrudged any share in the wealth to any man,
and so became the worst of all worms, and ever now lies brooding upon that
treasure: but for me, I went to the king and became his master-smith; and thus
is the tale told of how I lost the heritage of my father, and the weregild (=blood money) for my brother."
So spake Regin; but since that time
gold is called Ottergild, and for no other cause than
this. But Sigurd answered, "Much hast thou lost, and exceeding
evil have thy kinsmen been! But now, make a sword by thy craft, such a sword as
that none can be made like unto it; so that I may do great deeds therewith, if
my heart avail thereto, and thou wouldst have me slay this mighty dragon."
Regin says, "Trust me well herein; and with that
same sword shalt thou slay Fafnir."
Ch. 15: So Regin
makes a sword, and gives it into Sigurd's hands. He
took the sword, and said -- "Behold thy smithying,
Regin!" and therewith smote it into the anvil,
and the sword brake; so he cast down the brand, and bade him forge a better.
Then Regin forged another sword, and brought it to Sigurd, who looked thereon.
Then said Regin,
"Belike thou art well content therewith, hard master
though thou be in smithying." So Sigurd proved the sword, and brake
it even as the first; then he said to Regin "Ah,
art thou, mayhappen, a traitor and a liar like to
those former kin of thine?"
Therewith he went to his mother, and she
welcomed him in seemly wise, and they talked and drank together. Then spake Sigurd, "Have I heard
aright, that King Sigmund gave thee the good sword Gram in two pieces?"
"True enough," she said. So Sigurd said,
"Deliver them into my hands, for I would have them."She
said he looked like to win great fame, and gave him the sword.
Therewith went Sigurd
to Regin, and bade him make a good sword thereof as
he best might; Regin grew wroth thereat, but went
into the smithy with the pieces of the sword, thinking well meanwhile that Sigurd pushed his head far enow
into the matter of smithying. So he made a sword, and
as he bore it forth from the forge, it seemed to the smiths as though fire
burned along the edges thereof. Now he bade Sigurd
take the sword, and said he knew not how to make a sword if this one failed.
struck the anvil, and split the anvil down to its base, and the sword was
unbroken. Then he praised the sword much, and thereafter went to the river with
a lock of wool, and threw it up against the stream, and it fell asunder when it
met the sword. Then was Sigurd glad, and went home.
But Regin said, "Now whereas I have made the
sword for thee, belike thou wilt hold to thy troth
given, and wilt go meet Fafnir?" "Surely
will I hold thereto," said Sigurd, "yet first
must I avenge my father." Now Sigurd the older
he grew, the more he grew in the love of all men, so that every child loved him