The Edda, Vol. 2
Winifred Faraday

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Popular Studies in Mythology, Romance, and Folklore, No. 13

The Edda


The Heroic Mythology of the North


Winifred Faraday, M.A.

Published by David Nutt, at the Sign of the Phoenix, Long Acre, London

Author's Note

The present study forms a sequel to No. 12 (_The Edda: Divine Mythology
of the North_), to which the reader is referred for introductory matter
and for the general Bibliography. Additional bibliographical references
are given, as the need occurs, in the notes to the present number.

July 1902.

The Edda: II. The Heroic Mythology of the North

Sigemund the Waelsing and Fitela, Aetla, Eormanric the Goth and Gifica
of Burgundy, Ongendtheow and Theodric, Heorrenda and the Heodenings,
and Weland the Smith: all these heroes of Germanic legend were known
to the writers of our earliest English literature. But in most cases
the only evidence of this knowledge is a word, a name, here and there,
with no hint of the story attached. For circumstances directed the
poetical gifts of the Saxons in England towards legends of the saints
and Biblical paraphrase, away from the native heroes of the race;
while later events completed the exclusion of Germanic legend from our
literature, by substituting French and Celtic romance. Nevertheless,
these few brief references in _Beowulf_ and in the small group of
heathen English relics give us the right to a peculiar interest in the
hero-poems of the Edda. In studying these heroic poems, therefore,
we are confronted by problems entirely different in character from
those which have to be considered in connexion with the mythical
texts. Those are in the main the product of one, the Northern,
branch of the Germanic race, as we have seen (No. 12 of this series),
and the chief question to be determined is whether they represent,
however altered in form, a mythology common to all the Germans, and
as such necessarily early; or whether they are in substance, as well
as in form, a specific creation of the Scandinavians, and therefore
late and secondary. The heroic poems of the Edda, on the contrary,
with the exception of the Helgi cycle, have very close analogues in
the literatures of the other great branches of the Germanic race,
and these we are able to compare with the Northern versions.

The Edda contains poems belonging to the following heroic cycles:

(_a_) _Weland the Smith_.--Anglo-Saxon literature has several
references to this cycle, which must have been a very popular one;
and there is also a late Continental German version preserved in
an Icelandic translation. But the poem in the Edda is the oldest
connected form of the story.

(_b_) _Sigurd and the Nibelungs_.--Again the oldest reference is in
Anglo-Saxon. There are two well-known Continental German versions
in the _Nibelungen Lied_ and the late Icelandic _Thidreks Saga_,
but the Edda, on the whole, has preserved an earlier form of the
legend. With it is loosely connected

(_c_) _The Ermanric Cycle_.--The oldest references to this are in Latin
and Anglo-Saxon. The Continental German version in the _Thidreks Saga_
is late, and, like that in the Edda, contaminated with the Sigurd
story, with which it had originally nothing to do.

(_d_) _Helgi_.--This cycle, at least in its present form, is peculiar
to the Scandinavian North.

All the above-named poems are contained in Codex Regius of the Elder
Edda. From other sources we may add other poems which are Eddic, not
Skaldic, in style, in which other heroic cycles are represented. The
great majority of the poems deal with the favourite story of the
Volsungs, which threatens to swamp all the rest; for one hero after
another, Burgundian, Hun, Goth, was absorbed into it. The poems in this
part of the MS. differ far more widely in date and style than do the
mythological ones; many of the Volsung-lays are comparatively late, and
lack the fine simplicity which characterises the older popular poetry.

_Voelund_.--The lay of Voelund, the wonderful smith, the Weland of
the Old English poems and the only Germanic hero who survived for
any considerable time in English popular tradition, stands alone in
its cycle, and is the first heroic poem in the MS. It is in a very
fragmentary state, some of the deficiencies being supplied by short
pieces of prose. There are two motives in the story: the Swan-maids,
and the Vengeance of the Captive Smith. Three brothers, Slagfinn,
Egil and Voelund, sons of the Finnish King, while out hunting built
themselves a house by the lake in Wolfsdale. There, early one
morning, they saw three Valkyries spinning, their swancoats lying
beside them. The brothers took them home; but after seven years the
swan-maidens, wearied of their life, flew away to battle, and did
not return.

"Seven years they stayed there, but in the eighth longing seized
them, and in the ninth need parted them." Egil and Slagfinn went to
seek their wives, but Voelund stayed where he was and worked at his
forge. There Nithud, King of Sweden, took him captive:

"Men went by night in studded mailcoats; their shields shone by
the waning moon. They dismounted from the saddle at the hall-gable,
and went in along the hall. They saw rings strung on bast which the
hero owned, seven hundred in all; they took them off and put, them on
again, all but one. The keen-eyed archer Voelund came in from hunting,
from a far road.... He sat on a bear-skin and counted his rings, and
the prince of the elves missed one; he thought Hlodve's daughter,
the fairy-maid, had come back. He sat so long that he fell asleep,
and awoke powerless: heavy bonds were on his hands, and fetters
clasped on his feet."

They took him away and imprisoned him, ham-strung, on an island to
forge treasures for his captors. Then Voelund planned vengeance:

"'I see on Nithud's girdle the sword which I knew keenest and best,
and which I forged with all my skill. The glittering blade is taken
from me for ever; I shall not see it borne to Voelund's smithy. Now
Boedvild wears my bride's red ring; I expect no atonement.' He sat
and slept not, but struck with his hammer."

Nithud's children came to see him in his smithy: the two boys he slew,
and made drinking-cups for Nithud from their skulls; and the daughter
Boedvild he beguiled, and having made himself wings he rose into the
air and left her weeping for her lover and Nithud mourning his sons.

In the Old English poems allusion is made only to the second part
of the story; there is no reference to the legend of the enchanted
brides, which is indeed distinct in origin, being identical with
the common tale of the fairy wife who is obliged to return to animal
shape through some breach of agreement by her mortal husband. This
incident of the compact (_i.e._, to hide the swan-coat, to refrain
from asking the wife's name, or whatever it may have been) has been
lost in the Voelund tale. The Continental version is told in the late
Icelandic _Thidreks Saga_, where it is brought into connexion with
the Volsung story; in this the story of the second brother, Egil the
archer, is also given, and its antiquity is supported by the pictures
on the Anglo-Saxon carved whale-bone box known as the Franks Casket,
dated by Professor Napier at about 700 A.D. The adventures of the
third brother, Slagfinn, have not survived. The Anglo-Saxon gives
Voelund and Boedvild a son, Widia or Wudga, the Wittich who appears as
a follower of Dietrich's in the Continental German sources.

_The Volsungs_.--No story better illustrates the growth of heroic
legend than the Volsung cycle. It is composite, four or five mythical
motives combining to form the nucleus; and as it took possession
more and more strongly of the imagination of the early Germans, and
still more of the Scandinavians, other heroic cycles were brought
into dependence on it. None of the Eddic poems on the subject are
quite equal in poetic value to the Helgi lays; many are fragmentary,
several late, and only one attempts a review of the whole story. The
outline is as follows: Sigurd the Volsung, son of Sigmund and brother
of Sinfjoetli, slays the dragon who guards the Nibelungs' hoard on
the Glittering Heath, and thus inherits the curse which accompanies
the treasure; he finds and wakens Brynhild the Valkyrie, lying in
an enchanted sleep guarded by a ring of fire, loves her and plights
troth with her; Grimhild, wife of the Burgundian Giuki, by enchantment
causes him to forget the Valkyrie, to love her own daughter Gudrun,
and, since he alone can cross the fire, to win Brynhild for her son
Gunnar. After the marriage, Brynhild discovers the trick, and incites
her husband and his brothers to kill Sigurd.

The series begins with a prose piece on the Death of Sinfjoetli,
which says that after Sinfjoetli, son of Sigmund, Volsung's son (which
should be Valsi's son, Volsung being a tribal, not a personal, name),
had been poisoned by his stepmother Borghild, Sigmund married Hjoerdis,
Eylimi's daughter, had a son Sigurd, and fell in battle against the
race of Hunding. Sigmund, as in all other Norse sources, is said to be
king in Frankland, which, like the Niderlant of the _Nibelungen Lied_,
means the low lands on the Rhine. The scene of the story is always
near that river: Sigurd was slain by the Rhine, and the treasure of
the Rhine is quoted as proverbial in the Voelund lay.

_Gripisspa_ (the Prophecy of Gripi), which follows, is appropriately
placed first of the Volsung poems, since it gives a summary of the
whole story. Sigurd rides to see his mother's brother, Gripi, the
wisest of men, to ask about his destiny, and the soothsayer prophesies
his adventures and early death. This poem makes clear some original
features of the legend which are obscured elsewhere, especially in the
Gudrun set; Grimhild's treachery, and Sigurd's unintentional breach
of faith to Brynhild. In the speeches of both Gripi and Sigurd, the
poet shows clearly that Brynhild had the first right to Sigurd's faith,
while the seer repeatedly protests his innocence in breaking it: "Thou
shalt never be blamed though thou didst betray the royal maid.... No
better man shall come on earth beneath the sun than thou, Sigurd." On
the other hand, the poet gives no indication that Brynhild and the
sleeping Valkyrie are the same, which is a sign of confusion. Like
all poems in this form, _Gripisspa_ is a late composition embodying
earlier tradition.

The other poems are mostly episodical, though arranged so as to form
a continued narrative. _Gripisspa_ is followed by a compilation from
two or more poems in different metres, generally divided into three
parts in the editions: _Reginsmal_ gives the early history of the
treasure and the dragon, and Sigurd's battle with Hunding's sons;
_Fafnismal_, the slaying of the dragon and the advice of the talking
birds; _Sigrdrifumal_, the awakening of the Valkyrie. Then follows
a fragment on the death of Sigurd. All the rest, except the poem
generally called the _Third_, or _Short, Sigurd Lay_ (which tells of
the marriage with Gudrun and Sigurd's wooing of Brynhild for Gunnar)
continue the story after Sigurd's death, taking up the death of
Brynhild, Gudrun's mourning, and the fates of the other heroes who
became connected with the legend of the treasure.

In addition to the poems in the Elder Edda, an account of the story
is given by Snorri in _Skaldskaparmal_, but it is founded almost
entirely on the surviving lays. _Voelsunga Saga_ is also a paraphrase,
but more valuable, since parts of it are founded on lost poems, and
it therefore, to some extent, represents independent tradition. It
was, unfortunately from a literary point of view, compiled after the
great saga-time was over, in the decadent fourteenth century, when
material of all kinds, classical, biblical, romantic, mythological,
was hastily cast into saga-form. It is not, like the _Nibelungen
Lied_, a work of art, but it has what in this case is perhaps of
greater importance, the one great virtue of fidelity. The compiler
did not, like the author of the German masterpiece, boldly recast
his material in the spirit of his own time; he clung closely to his
originals, only trying with hesitating hand to copy the favourite
literary form of the Icelander. As a saga, therefore, _Voelsunga_
is far behind not only such great works as _Njala_, but also many of
the smaller sagas. It lacks form, and is marred by inconsistencies;
it is often careless in grammar and diction; it is full of traces
of the decadent romantic age. Sigurd, in the true spirit of romance,
is endowed with magic weapons and supernatural powers, which are no
improvement on the heroic tradition, "Courage is better than a good
sword." At every turn, Odin is at hand to help him, which tends to
efface the older and truer picture of the hero with all the fates
against him; such heroes, found again and again in the historic
sagas, more truly represent the heathen heroic age and that belief
in the selfishness and caprice of the Gods on which the whole idea
of sacrifice rests. There is also the inevitable deterioration in the
character of Brynhild, without the compensating elevation in that of
her rival by which the _Nibelungen Lied_ places Chriemhild on a height
as lofty and unapproachable as that occupied by the Norse Valkyrie;
the Brynhild of _Voelsunga Saga_ is something of a virago, the Gudrun
is jealous and shrewish. But for actual material, the compiler is
absolutely to be trusted; and _Voelsunga Saga_ is therefore, in spite
of artistic faults, a priceless treasure-house for the real features
of the legend.

There are two main elements in the Volsung story: the slaying of the
dragon, and the awakening and desertion of Brynhild. The latter is
brought into close connexion with the former, which becomes the real
centre of the action. In the Anglo-Saxon reference, the fragment in
_Beowulf_, the second episode does not appear.

In this, the oldest version of the story, which, except for a vague
reference to early feats by Sigmund and Sinfjoetli, consists solely
of the dragon adventure, the hero is not Sigurd, but Sigemund the
Waelsing. All that it tells is that Sigemund, Fitela (Sinfjoetli)
not being with him, killed the dragon, the guardian of the hoard, and
loaded a ship with the treasure. The few preceding lines only mention
the war which Sigmund and Sinfjoetli waged on their foes. They are there
uncle and nephew, and there is no suggestion of the closer relationship
assigned to them by _Voelsunga Saga_, which tells their story in full.

Sigmund, one of the ten sons of Volsung (who is himself of
miraculous birth) and the Wishmaiden Hlod, is one of the chosen
heroes of Odin. His twin-sister Signy is married against her will to
Siggeir, an hereditary enemy, and at the wedding-feast Odin enters
and thrusts a sword up to the hilt into the tree growing in the
middle of the hall. All try to draw it, but only the chosen Sigmund
succeeds. Siggeir, on returning to his own home with his unwilling
bride, invites her father and brothers to a feast. Though suspecting
treachery, they come, and are killed one after another, except Sigmund
who is secretly saved by his sister and hidden in the wood. She
meditates revenge, and as her two sons grow up to the age of ten,
she tests their courage, and finding it wanting makes Sigmund kill
both: the expected hero must be a Volsung through both parents. She
therefore visits Sigmund in disguise, and her third son, Sinfjoetli,
is the child of the Volsung pair. At ten years old, she sends him to
live in the wood with Sigmund, who only knows him as Signy's son. For
years they live as wer-wolves in the wood, till the time comes for
vengeance. They set fire to Siggeir's hall; and Signy, after revealing
Sinfjoetli's real parentage, goes back into the fire and dies there,
her vengeance achieved:

"I killed my children, because I thought them too weak to avenge our
father; Sinfjoetli has a warrior's might because he is both son's son
and daughter's son to King Volsung. I have laboured to this end,
that King Siggeir should meet his death; I have so toiled for the
achieving of revenge that I am now on no condition fit for life. As
I lived by force with King Siggeir, of free will shall I die with him."

Though no poem survives on this subject, the story is certainly
primitive; its savage character vouches for its antiquity. _Voelsunga_
then reproduces the substance of the prose _Death of Sinfjoetli_
mentioned above, the object of which, as a part of the cycle, seems
to be to remove Sinfjoetli and leave the field clear for Sigurd. It
preserves a touch which may be original in Sinfjoetli's burial, which
resembles that of Scyld in _Beowulf_: his father lays him in a boat
steered by an old man, which immediately disappears.

Sigmund and Sinfjoetli are always close comrades, "need-companions"
as the Anglo-Saxon calls them. They are indivisible and form one
story. Sigurd, on the other hand, is only born after his father
Sigmund's death. _Voelsunga_ says that Sigmund fell in battle against
Hunding, through the interference of Odin, who, justifying Loki's taunt
that he "knew not how to give the victory fairly," shattered with his
spear the sword he had given to the Volsung. For this again we have
to depend entirely on the prose, except for one line in _Hyndluljod_:
"The Father of Hosts gives gold to his followers;... he gave Sigmund
a sword." And from the poems too, Sigurd's fatherless childhood is
only to be inferred from an isolated reference, where giving himself
a false name he says to Fafni: "I came a motherless child; I have no
father like the sons of men." Sigmund, dying, left the fragments of
the sword to be given to his unborn son, and Sigurd's fosterfather
Regin forged them anew for the future dragon-slayer. But Sigurd's
first deed was to avenge on Hunding's race the death of his father
and his mother's father. _Voelsunga_ tells this story first of Helgi
and Sinfjoetli, then of Sigurd, to whom the poems also attribute the
deed. It is followed by the dragon-slaying.

Up to this point, the story of Sigurd consists roughly of the same
features which mark that of Sigmund and Sinfjoetli. Both are probably,
like Helgi, versions of a race-hero myth. In each case there is
the usual irregular birth, in different forms, both familiar; a
third type, the miraculous or supernatural birth, is attributed by
_Voelsunga_ to Sigmund's father Volsung. Each story again includes
a deed of vengeance, and a dragon and treasure. The sword which the
hero alone could draw, and the wer-wolf, appear only in the Sigmund
and Sinfjoetli version. Among those Germanic races which brought the
legend to full perfection, Sigurd's version soon became the sole one,
and Sigmund and Sinfjoetli practically drop out.

The Dragon legend of the Edda is much fuller and more elaborate than
that of any other mythology. As a rule tradition is satisfied with
the existence of the monster "old and proud of his treasure," but
here we are told its full previous history, certain features of which
(such as the shape-shifting) are signs of antiquity, whether it was
originally connected with the Volsungs or not.

As usual, _Voelsunga_ gives the fullest account, in the form of a
story told by Regin to his foster-son Sigurd, to incite him to slay
the dragon. Regin was one of three brothers, the sons of Hreidmar;
one of the three, Otr, while in the water in otter's shape, was seen by
three of the Aesir, Odin, Loki and Hoeni, and killed by Loki. Hreidmar
demanded as wergild enough gold to fill the otter's skin, and Loki
obtained it by catching the dwarf Andvari, who lived in a waterfall
in the form of a fish, and allowing him to ransom his head by giving
up his wealth. One ring the dwarf tried to keep back, but in vain;
and thereupon he laid a curse upon it: that the ring with the rest
of the gold should be the death of whoever should get possession of
it. In giving the gold to Hreidmar, Odin also tried to keep back the
ring, but had to give it up to cover the last hair. Then Fafni, one of
the two remaining sons, killed his father, first victim of the curse,
for the sake of the gold. He carried it away and lay guarding it in
the shape of a snake. But Regin the smith did not give up his hopes of
possessing the hoard: he adopted as his foster-son Sigurd the Volsung,
thus getting into his power the hero fated to slay the dragon.

The curse thus becomes the centre of the action, and the link between
the two parts of the story, since it directly accounts for Sigurd's
unconscious treachery and his separation from Brynhild, and absolves
the hero from blame by making him a victim of fate. It destroys in turn
Hreidmar, the Dragon, his brother Regin, the dragon-slayer himself,
Brynhild (to whom he gave the ring), and the Giukings, who claimed
inheritance after Sigurd's death. Later writers carried its effects
still further.

This narrative is also told in the pieces of prose interspersed through
_Reginsmal_. The verse consists only of scraps of dialogue. The first
of these comprises question and answer between Loki and the dwarf
Andvari in the form of the old riddle-poems, and seems to result
from the confusion of two ideas: the question-and-answer wager, and
the captive's ransom by treasure. Then follows the curse, in less
general terms than in the prose: "My gold shall be the death of two
brothers, and cause strife among eight kings; no one shall rejoice in
the possession of my treasure." Next comes a short dialogue between
Loki and Hreidmar, in which the former warns his host of the risk he
runs in taking the hoard. In the next fragment Hreidmar calls on his
daughters to avenge him; Lyngheid replies that they cannot do so on
their own brother, and her father bids her bear a daughter whose son
may avenge him. This has given rise to a suggestion that Hjoerdis,
Sigurd's mother, was daughter to Lyngheid, but if that is intended,
it may only be due to the Norse passion for genealogy. The next
fragment brings Regin and Sigurd together, and the smith takes the
young Volsung for his foster-son. A speech of Sigurd's follows, in
which he refuses to seek the treasure till he has avenged his father
on Hunding's sons. The rest of the poem is concerned with the battle
with Hunding's race, and Sigurd's meeting with Odin by the way.

The fight with Fafni is not described in verse, very little of this
poetry being in narrative form; but _Fafnismal_ gives a dialogue
between the wounded dragon and his slayer. Fafni warns the Volsung
against the hoard: "The ringing gold and the glowing treasure, the
rings shall be thy death." Sigurd disregards the warning with the maxim
"Every man must die some time," and asks questions of the dragon in the
manner of _Vafthrudnismal_. Fafni, after repeating his warning, speaks
of his brother's intended treachery: "Regin betrayed me, he will betray
thee; he will be the death of both of us," and dies. Regin returning
bids Sigurd roast Fafni's heart, while he sleeps. A prose-piece tells
that Sigurd burnt his fingers by touching the heart, put them in
his mouth, and understood the speech of birds. The advice given him
by the birds is taken from two different poems, and partly repeats
itself; the substance is a warning to Sigurd against the treachery
plotted by Regin, and a counsel to prevent it by killing him, and so
become sole owner of the hoard. Sigurd takes advantage of the warning:
"Fate shall not be so strong that Regin shall give my death-sentence:
both brothers shall go quickly hence to Hel." Regin's enjoyment of
the hoard is therefore short. The second half of the story begins
when one of the birds, after a reference to Gudrun, guides Sigurd to
the sleeping Valkyrie:

"Bind up the red rings, Sigurd; it is not kingly to fear. I know a
maid, fairest of all, decked with gold, if thou couldst get her. Green
roads lead to Giuki's, fate guides the wanderer forward. There a
mighty king has a daughter; Sigurd will buy her with a dowry. There
is a hall high on Hindarfell; all without it is swept with fire.... I
know a battle-maid who sleeps on the fell, and the flame plays over
her; Odin touched the maid with a thorn, because she laid low others
than those he wished to fall. Thou shalt see, boy, the helmed maid who
rode Vingskorni from the fight; Sigrdrifa's sleep cannot be broken,
son of heroes, by the Norns' decrees."

Sigrdrifa (dispenser of victory) is, of course, Brynhild; the name may
have been originally an epithet of the Valkyrie, and it was probably
such passages as this that misled the author of _Gripisspa_ into
differentiating the Valkyrie and Brynhild. The last lines have been
differently interpreted as a warning to Sigurd not to seek Brynhild and
an attempt to incite him to do so by emphasising the difficulty of the
deed; they may merely mean that her sleep cannot be broken except by
one, namely, the one who knows no fear. Brynhild's supernatural origin
is clearly shown here, and also in the prose in _Sigrdrifumal. Voelsunga
Saga_, though it paraphrases in full the passages relating to the magic
sleep, removes much of the mystery surrounding her by providing her
with a genealogy and family connections; while the _Nibelungen Lied_
goes further still in the same direction by leaving out the magic
sleep. The change is a natural result of Christian ideas, to which
Odin's Wishmaidens would become incomprehensible.

Thus far the story is that of the release of the enchanted princess,
popularly most familiar in the nursery tale of the Sleeping
Beauty. After her broken questions to her deliverer, "What cut my
mail? How have I broken from sleep? Who has flung from me the dark
spells?" and his answer, "Sigmund's son and Sigurd's sword," she
bursts into the famous "Greeting to the World":

"Long have I slept, long was I sunk in sleep, long are men's
misfortunes. It was Odin's doing that I could not break the runes of
sleep. Hail, day! hail, sons of day! hail, night! Look on us two with
gracious eyes, and give victory to us who sit here. Hail, Aesir! hail,
Asynjor! hail, Earth, mother of all! give eloquence and wisdom to us
the wonderful pair, and hands of healing while we live."

She then becomes Sigurd's guardian and protectress and the source of
his wisdom, as she speaks the runes and counsels which are to help him
in all difficulties; and from this point corresponds to the maiden who
is the hero's benefactress, but whom he deserts through sorcery: the
"Mastermaid" of the fairy-tales, the Medeia of Greek myth. Gudrun is
always an innocent instrument in drawing Sigurd away from his real
bride, the actual agent being her witch-mother Grimhild. This part
of the story is summarised in _Gripisspa_, except that the writer
seems unaware that the Wishmaiden who teaches Sigurd "every mystery
that men would know" and the princess he betrays are the same:

"A king's daughter bright in mail sleeps on the fell; thou shalt hew
with thy sharp sword, and cut the mail with Fafni's slayer.... She
will teach thee every mystery that men would know, and to speak in
every man's tongue.... Thou shalt visit Heimi's dwelling and be the
great king's joyous guest.... There is a maid fair to see at Heimi's;
men call her Brynhild, Budli's daughter, but the great king Heimi
fosters the proud maid.... Heimi's fair foster-daughter will rob
thee of all joy; thou shalt sleep no sleep, and judge no cause,
and care for no man unless thou see the maiden. ... Ye shall swear
all binding oaths but keep few when thou hast been one night Giuki's
guest, thou shalt not remember Heimi's brave foster-daughter.... Thou
shalt suffer treachery from another and pay the price of Grimhild's
plots. The bright-haired lady will offer thee her daughter."

_Voelsunga_ gives additional details: Brynhild knows her deliverer
to be Sigurd Sigmundsson and the slayer of Fafni, and they swear
oaths to each other. The description of their second meeting, when
he finds her among her maidens, and she prophesies that he will marry
Giuki's daughter, and also the meeting between her and Gudrun before
the latter's marriage, represent a later development of the story,
inconsistent with the older conception of the Shield-maiden. Sigurd
gives Brynhild the ring Andvaranaut, which belonged to the hoard,
as a pledge, and takes it from her again later when he woos her in
Gunnar's form. It is the sight of the ring afterwards on Gudrun's
hand which reveals to her the deception; but the episode has also
a deeper significance, since it brings her into connection with the
central action by passing the curse on to her. According to Snorri's
paraphrase, Sigurd gives the ring to Brynhild when he goes to her in
Gunnar's form.

For the rest of the story we must depend chiefly on _Gripisspa_ and
_Voelsunga_. The latter tells that Grimhild, the mother of the Giukings,
gave Sigurd a magic drink by which he forgot Brynhild and fell in love
with Giuki's daughter. Gudrun's brothers swore oaths of friendship
with him, and he agreed to ride through the waverlowe, or ring of
fire, disguised and win Brynhild for the eldest brother Gunnar. After
the two bridals, he remembered his first passing through the flame,
and his love for Brynhild returned. The Shield-maiden too remembered,
but thinking that Gunnar had fairly won her, accepted her fate until
Gudrun in spite and jealousy revealed the trick that had been played
on her. Of the treachery of the Giukings Brynhild takes little heed;
but death alone can pay for Sigurd's unconscious betrayal. She tells
Gunnar that Sigurd has broken faith with him, and the Giukings with
some reluctance murder their sister's husband. Brynhild springs on to
the funeral pyre, and dies with Sigurd. _Voelsunga_ makes the murder
take place in Sigurd's chamber, and one poem, the _Short Sigurd Lay_,
agrees. The fragment which follows _Sigrdrifumal_, on the other hand,
places the scene in the open air:

"Sigurd was slain south of the Rhine; a raven on a tree called aloud:
'On you will Atli redden the sword; your broken oaths shall destroy
you.' Gudrun Giuki's daughter stood without, and these were the first
words she spoke: 'Where is now Sigurd, the lord of men, that my kinsmen
ride first?' Hoegni alone made answer: 'We have hewn Sigurd asunder
with the sword; the grey horse still stoops over his dead lord.'"

This agrees with the _Old Gudrun Lay_ and with the Continental German
version, as a prose epilogue points out.

Of the Giuking brothers, Gunnar appears only in a contemptible light:
he gains his bride by treachery, and keeps his oath to Sigurd by a
quibble. Hoegni, who has little but his name in common with Hagen von
Tronje of the _Nibelungen Lied_, advises Gunnar against breaking his
oath, but it is he who taunts Gudrun afterwards. The later poems of
the cycle try to make heroes out of both; the same discrepancy exists
between the first and second halves of the _Nibelungen Lied_. Their
half-brother, Gutthorm, plays no part in the story except as the
actual murderer of Sigurd.

The chief effect of the influences of Christianity and Romance on
the legend is a loss of sympathy with the heroic type of Brynhild,
and an attempt to give more dignity to the figure of Gudrun. The
Shield-maiden of divine origin and unearthly wisdom, with her
unrelenting vengeance on her beloved, and her contempt for her
slighter rival ("Fitter would it be for Gudrun to die with Sigurd,
if she had a soul like mine"), is a figure out of harmony with the new
religion, and beyond the comprehension of a time coloured by romance;
while both the sentiment and the morality of the age would be on the
side of Gudrun as the formally wedded wife. So the poem known as the
_Short Sigurd Lay_, which has many marks of lateness, such as the
elaborate description of the funeral pyre and the exaggeration of
the signs of mourning, says nothing of Sigurd's love for Brynhild,
nor do his last words to Gudrun give any hint of it. The _Nibelungen
Lied_ suppresses Sigurd's love to Brynhild, and the magic drink, and
altogether lowers Brynhild, but elevates Gudrun (under her mother's
name); her slow but terrible vengeance, and absolute forgetfulness
of the ties of blood in pursuit of it, are equal to anything in the
original version. The later heroic poems of the Edda make a less
successful attempt to create sympathy for Gudrun; some, such as the
so-called _First Gudrun Lay_, which is entirely romantic in character,
try to make her pathetic by the abundance of tears she sheds; others,
to make her heroic, though the result is only a spurious savagery.

The remaining poems of the cycle, all late in style and tone, deal
with the fates of Gudrun and her brothers, and owe their existence
to a narrator's unwillingness to let a favourite story end. The
curse makes continuation easy, since the Giukings inherit it with the
hoard. Gudrun was married at the wish of her kinsmen to Atli the Hun,
said to be Brynhild's brother. He invited Gunnar and Hoegni to his
court and killed them for the sake of the treasure, in vengeance for
which Gudrun killed her own two sons and Atli; this latter incident
being possibly an imitation of Signy. If we may believe that Gudrun,
like Chriemhild in the _Nibelungen Lied_, married Atli in order to
gain vengeance for Sigurd, we might suppose that there was confusion
here: that she herself incited the murder of her brothers, and killed
Atli when he had served his purpose. This would strengthen the part
of Gudrun, who as the tale stands is rather a futile character. But
in all probability the episode is due to a confusion of Signy's story
with that of the German Chriemhild and Etzel.

One point has still to be considered: the place of the Nibelungs in the
story. In the Edda, the Hniflungs are always the Giukings, Gunnar and
Hoegni, and Snorri gives it as the name of an heroic family. The title
of the first _aventiure_ of the _Nibelungen Lied_ also apparently uses
the word of the Burgundians. Yet the treasure is always the Nibelungs'
hoard, which clearly means that they were the original owners; and when
Hagen von Tronje tells the story later in the poem, he speaks of the
Nibelungs correctly as the dwarfs from whom Siegfried won it. On this
point, therefore, the German preserves the older tradition: the Norse
Andvari, the river-dwarf, is the German Alberich the Nibelung. In
the _Nibelungen Lied_ the winning of the treasure forms no part of
the action: it is merely narrated by Hagen. This accounts for the
shortening of the episode and the omission of the intermediate steps:
the robbing of the dwarf, the curse, and the dragon-slaying.

* * * * *

_Ermanric.--_The two poems of _Gudrun's Lament_ and _Hamthismal_,
in the Edda attached to the Volsung cycle, belong correctly to
that of the Gothic hero Ermanric. According to these poems, Gudrun,
Giuki's daughter, married a third time, and had three sons, Soerli,
Hamthi and Erp. She married Svanhild, her own and Sigurd's daughter,
to Joermunrek, king of the Goths; but Svanhild was slandered, and her
husband had her trodden to death by horses' hoofs. The description
of Svanhild is a good example of the style of the romantic poems:

"The bondmaids sat round Svanhild, dearest of my children; Svanhild
was like a glorious sunbeam in my hall. I dowered her with gold
and goodly fabrics when I married her into Gothland. That was the
hardest of my griefs, when they trod Svanhild's fair hair into the
dust beneath the horses' hoofs."

Gudrun sent her three sons to avenge their sister; two of them
slew Erp by the way, and were killed themselves in their attack on
Joermunrek for want of his help. So died, as Snorri says, all who were
of Giuking descent; and only Aslaug, daughter of Sigurd and Brynhild,
survived. _Heimskringla_, a thirteenth century history of the royal
races of Scandinavia, traces the descent of the Norse kings from her.

This Ermanric story, which belongs to legendary history rather than
myth, is in reality quite independent of the Volsung or Nibelung
cycle. The connection is loose and inartistic, the legend being
probably linked to Gudrun's name because she had become a favourite
character and Icelandic narrators were unwilling to let her die. The
historic Ermanric was conquered by the Huns in 374; the sixth century
historian Jornandes is the earliest authority for the tradition that he
was murdered by Sarus and Ammius in revenge for their sister's death
by wild horses. Saxo also tells the story, with greater similarity
of names. It seems hardly necessary to assume, with many scholars,
the existence of two heroes of the name Ermanric, an historic and
a mythical one. A simpler explanation is that a legendary story
became connected with the name of a real personage. The slaying of
Erp introduces a common folk-tale incident, familiar in stories like
the _Golden Bird_, told by both Asbjoernsen and Grimm.

* * * * *

_Helgi._--The Helgi-lays, three in number, are the best of the
heroic poems. Nominally they tell two stories, Helgi Hjoervardsson
being sandwiched between the two poems of Helgi Hundingsbane; but
essentially the stories are the same.

In _Helyi Hjoervardsson_, Helgi, son of Hjoervard and Sigrlinn, was dumb
and nameless until a certain day when, while sitting on a howe, he
saw a troop of nine Valkyries. The fairest, Svava, Eylimi's daughter,
named him, and bidding him avenge his grandfather on Hrodmar (a former
wooer of Sigrlinn's, and her father's slayer), sent him to find a
magic sword. Helgi slew Hrodmar and married Svava, having escaped
from the sea-giantess Hrimgerd through the protection of his Valkyrie
bride and the wit of a faithful servant. His brother Hedin, through
the spells of a troll-wife, swore to wed Helgi's bride. Repenting, he
told his brother, who, dying in a fight with Hrodmar's son, charged
Svava to marry Hedin. A note by the collector adds "Helgi and Svava
are said to have been born again."

In _Helgi Hundingsbane I_., Helgi is the son of Sigmund and
Borghild. He fought and slew Hunding, and afterwards met in battle
Hunding's sons at Logafell, where the Valkyrie Sigrun, Hoegni's
daughter, protected him, and challenged him to fight Hoedbrodd to whom
her father had plighted her. She protected his ships in the storm which
overtook them as they sailed to meet Hoedbrodd, and watched over him in
the battle, in which he slew his rival and was greeted as victor by
Sigrun: "Hail, hero of Yngvi's race ... thou shalt have both the red
rings and the mighty maid: thine are Hoegni's daughter and Hringstad,
the victory and the land."

_Helgi Hundingsbane II_., besides giving additional details of the
hero's early life, completes the story. In the battle with Hoedbrodd,
Helgi killed all Sigrun's kinsmen except one brother, Dag, who slew
him later in vengeance. But Helgi returned from the grave, awakened by
Sigrun's weeping, and she went into the howe with him. The collector
again adds a note: "Helgi and Sigrun are said to have been born again:
he was then called Helgi Haddingjaskati, and she Kara Halfdan's
daughter, as it is told in the Kara-ljod, and she was a Valkyrie."

This third Helgi legend does not survive in verse, the _Kara-ljod_
having perished. It is told in prose in the late saga of Hromund
Gripsson, according to which Kara was a Valkyrie and swan-maid: while
she was hovering over Helgi, he killed her accidentally in swinging
his sword.

There can be little doubt that these three are merely variants of the
same story; the foundation is the same, though incidents and names
differ. The three Helgis are one hero, and the three versions of his
legend probably come from different localities. The collector could
not but feel their identity, and the similarity was too fundamental
to be overlooked; he therefore accounted for it by the old idea of
re-birth, and thus linked the three together. In each Helgi has an
hereditary foe (Hrodmar, Hunding, or Hadding); in each his bride is a
Valkyrie, who protects him and gives him victory; each ends in tragedy,
though differently.

The two variants in the Poetic Edda have evident marks
of contamination with the Volsung cycle, and some points of
superficial resemblance. Helgi Hjoervardsson's mother is Sigrlinn,
Helgi Hundings-bane's father is Sigmund, as in the _Nibelungen Lied_
Siegfried is the son of Sigemunt and Sigelint. Helgi Hundingsbane is
a Volsung and Wolfing (Ylfing), and brother to Sinfjoetli; his first
fight, like Sigurd's, is against the race of Hunding; his rival,
Hoedbrodd, is a Hniflung; he first meets the Valkyrie on Loga-fell
(Flame-hill); he is killed by his brother-in-law, who has sworn
friendship. But there is no parallel to the essential features of the
Volsung cycle, and such likenesses between the two stories as are not
accidental are due to the influence of the more favoured legend; this
is especially true of the names. The prose-piece _Sinfjoetli's Death_
also makes Helgi half-brother to Sinfjoetli; it is followed in this
by _Voelsunga Saga_, which devotes a chapter to Helgi, paraphrasing
_Helyi Hundingsbane I_. There is, of course, confusion over the
Hunding episode; the saga is obliged to reconcile its conflicting
authorities by making Helgi kill Hunding and some of his sons, and
Sigurd kill the rest.

If the theory stated below as to the original Helgi legend be correct,
the feud with Hunding's race, as told in these poems, must be
extraneous. I conjecture that it belonged originally to the Volsung
cycle, and to the wer-wolf Sinfjoetli. It must not be forgotten that,
though he passes out of the Volsung story altogether in the later
versions, both Scandinavian and German, he is in the main action
in the earliest one (that in _Beowulf_), where even Sigurd does not
appear. The feud might easily have been transferred from him to Helgi
as well as to Sigurd, for invention is limited as regards episodes,
and a narrator who wishes to elaborate the story of a favourite hero
is often forced to borrow adventures. In the original story, Helgi's
blood-feud was probably with the kindred of Sigrun or Svava.

The origin of the Helgi legend must be sought outside of the Volsung
cycle. Some writers are of opinion that the name should be Holgi,
and there are two stories in which a hero Holgi appears. With
the legend of Thorgerd Holgabrud, told by Saxo, who identified it
with that of Helgi Hundingsbane, it has nothing in common; and the
connection which has been sought with the legend of Holger Danske is
equally difficult to establish. The essence of this latter story is
the hero's disappearance into fairyland, and the expectation of his
return sometime in the future: a motive which has been very fruitful
in Irish romance, and in the traditions of Arthur, Tryggvason, and
Barbarossa, among countless others. But it is absent from the Helgi
poems; and the "old wives' tales" of Helgi's re-birth have nothing
to do with his legend, but are merely a bookman's attempt to connect
stories which he felt to be the same though different.

The essential feature of the story told in these poems is the motive
familiar in that class of ballads of which the _Douglas Tragedy_ is a
type: the hero loves the daughter of his enemy's house, her kinsmen
kill him, and she dies of grief. This is the story told in both the
lays of _Helgi Hundingsbane_, complete in one, unfinished in the
other. No single poem preserves all the incidents of the legend; some
survive in one version, some in another, as usual in ballad literature.

Like Sinfjoetli and Sigurd, Helgi is brought up in obscurity. He spends
his childhood disguised in his enemy's household, and on leaving it,
sends a message to tell his foes whom they have fostered. They pursue
him, and he is obliged, like Gude Wallace in the Scottish ballad,
to disguise himself in a bondmaid's dress:

"Piercing are the eyes of Hagal's bondmaid; it is no peasant's kin who
stands at the mill: the stones are split, the bin springs in two. It
is a hard fate for a warrior to grind the barley; the sword-hilt is
better fitted for those hands than the mill-handle."

Sigrun is present at the battle, in which, as in the English and
Scottish ballads, Helgi slays all her kindred except one brother. He
tells her the fortunes of the fight, and she chooses between lover
and kinsmen:

_Helgi_. "Good luck is not granted thee, maid, in all things,
though the Norns are partly to blame. Bragi and Hoegni fell to-day
at Frekastein, and I was their slayer;... most of thy kindred lie
low. Thou couldst not hinder the battle: it was thy fate to be a cause
of strife to heroes. Weep not, Sigrun, thou hast been Hild to us;
heroes must meet their fate."

_Sigrun_. "I could wish those alive who are fallen, and yet rest in
thy arms."

The surviving brother, Dag, swears oaths of reconciliation to Helgi,
but remembers the feud. The end comes, as in the Norse Sigmund tale,
through Odin's interference: he lends his spear to Dag, who stabs Helgi
in a grove, and rides home to tell his sister. Sigrun is inconsolable,
and curses the murderer with a rare power and directness:

"May the oaths pierce thee that thou hast sworn to Helgi.... May the
ship sail not that sails under thee, though a fair wind lie behind. May
the horse run not that runs under thee, though thou art fleeing from
thy foes. May the sword bite not that thou drawest, unless it sing
round thine own head. If thou wert an outlaw in the woods, Helgi's
death were avenged.... Never again while I live, by night or day,
shall I sit happy at Sevafell, if I see not the light play on my hero's
company, nor the gold-bitted War-breeze run thither with the warrior."

But Helgi returns from the grave, unable to rest because of Sigrun's
weeping, and she goes down into the howe with him:

_Sigrun_. "Thy hair is covered with frost, Helgi; thou art drenched
with deadly dew, thy hands are cold and wet. How shall I get thee help,
my hero?"

_Helgi_. "Thou alone hast caused it, Sigrun from Sevafell, that Helgi
is drenched with deadly dew. Thou weepest bitter tears before thou
goest to sleep, gold-decked, sunbright, Southern maid; each one falls
on my breast, bloody, cold and wet, cruel, heavy with grief...."

_Sigrun_. "I have made thee here a painless bed, Helgi, son of the
Wolfings. I will sleep in thy arms, my warrior, as if thou wert alive."

_Helgi_. "There shall be no stranger thing at Sevafell, early or late,
than that thou, king-born, Hoegni's fair daughter, shouldst be alive
in the grave and sleep in a dead man's arms."

The lay of Helgi Hjoervardsson is furthest from the original, for there
is no feud with Svava's kindred, nor does Helgi die at their hands;
but it preserves a feature omitted elsewhere, in his leaving his bride
to his brother's protection. Like the wife in the English ballad of
_Earl Brand_, and the heroine of the Danish _Ribold and Guldborg_,
Svava refuses, but Hedin's last words seem to imply that he is to
return and marry her after avenging Helgi. This would be contrary to
all parallels, according to which Svava should die with Helgi.

The alternative ending of the _Helgi and Kara_ version is interesting
as providing the possible source of another Scottish ballad dealing
with the same type of story. In _The Cruel Knight_, as here, the
hero slays his bride, who is of a hostile family, by mistake. One
passage of _Helgi Hundingsbane II._ describes Helgi's entrance into
Valhalla, which, taken with the incident of Sigrun's joining him
in the howe, supplies an instance of the survival side by side of
inconsistent notions as to the state of the dead. The lover's return
from the grave is the subject of _Clerk Saunders_ (the second part)
and several other Scottish ballads.

_The Song of the Mill_.--The magic mill is best known in the folk-tale,
"Why the sea is salt"; but this is not the oldest part of the story,
though it took most hold of the popular imagination which loves
legendary explanations of natural phenomena. The hero, Frodi, a
mythical Danish king, is the northern Croesus. His reign was marked
by a world-peace, and the peace, the wealth, the liberality of Frodi
became proverbial. The motive of his tale is again the curse that
follows gold. It is told by Snorri, in whose work _Grottasoengr_
is embodied.

Frodi possessed two magic quern-stones, from which the grinder could
grind out whatever he wished; but he had no one strong enough to turn
them until he bought in Sweden two bondmaids of giant-race, Menja and
Fenja. He set them to grind at the quern by day, and by night when
all slept, and as they ground him gold, and peace, and prosperity,
they sang:

"We grind wealth for Frodi, all bliss we grind, and abundance of
riches in the fortunate bin. May he sit on wealth, may he sleep on
down, may he wake to delight; then the grinding were good. Here shall
no man hurt another, prepare evil nor work death, nor hew with the
keen sword though he find his brother's slayer bound."

But when they wearied of their toil and asked for a little rest,
Frodi answered: "Ye shall sleep no longer than the cuckoo is silent,
or while I speak one stave." Then the giant-maids grew angry, and sang:

"Thou wert not wise, Frodi, in buying thy bondmaids: thou didst
choose us for our strength and size but asked not our race. Bold
were Hrungni and his father, and mightier Thiazi; Idi and Orni were
our ancestors, from them are we daughters of the mountain-giants
sprung.... We maids wrought mighty deeds, we moved the mountains
from their places, we rolled rocks over the court of the giants,
so that the earth shook.... Now we are come to the king's house,
meeting no mercy and held in bondage, mud beneath our feet and cold
over our heads, we grind the Peace-maker. It is dreary at Frodi's."

As they sang of their wrongs by night, their mood changed, and instead
of grinding peace and wealth, they ground war, fire and sword:

"Waken, Frodi! waken, Frodi! if thou wilt hear our songs.... I see
fire burn at the east of the citadel, the voice of war awakes, the
signal is given. A host will come hither in speed, and burn the hall
over the king."

So the bondmaids ground on in giant-wrath, while the sea-king Mysing
sailed nearer with his host, until the quern-stones split; and then
the daughters of the mountain-giants spoke once more: "We have ground
to our pleasure, Frodi; we maids have stood long at the mill."

A Norseman was rarely content to allow a fortunate ending to any
hero, and a continuation of the story therefore makes the mill bring
disaster on Mysing also. After slaying Frodi and burning his hall,
he took the stones and the bondmaids on board his ship, and bade them
grind salt. They ground till the weight sank the ship to the bottom
of the sea, where the mill is grinding still. This is not in the song,
though it has lived longer popularly than the earlier part. Dr. Rydberg
identities Frodi with Frey, the God of fertility.

_The Everlasting Battle_.--No Eddic poem survives on the battle of the
Hjathnings, the story of which is told in prose by Snorri. It must,
however, be an ancient legend; and the hero Hedin belongs to one of
the old Germanic heroic races, for the minstrel Deor is a dependent of
the Heodenings in the Old English poem to which reference will be made
later. The legend is that Hild, daughter of Hoegni, was carried away by
Hedin the Hjathning, Hjarrandi's son. Hoegni pursued, and overtook them
near the Orkneys. Then Hild went to her father and offered atonement
from Hedin, but said also that he was quite ready to fight, and Hoegni
need expect no mercy. Hoegni answered shortly, and Hild returning told
Hedin that her father would accept no atonement but bade him prepare
to fight. Both kings landed on an island, followed by their men. Hedin
called to Hoegni and offered atonement and much gold, but Hoegni said it
was too late, his sword was already drawn. They fought till evening,
and then returned to their ships; but Hild went on shore and woke up
all the slain by sorcery, so that the battle began again next day
just as before. Every day they fight, and every night the dead are
recalled to life, and so it will go on till Ragnaroek.

In the German poem, _Gudrun_, the Continental version of this legend
occurs in the story of the second Hilde. She is carried away by the
minstrel Horant (who thus plays a more active part than the Norse
Hjarrandi), as envoy from King Hettel, Hedin's German counterpart. Her
father Hagen pursues, and after a battle with Hettel agrees to a
reconciliation. The story is duplicated in the abduction of Hilde's
daughter Gudrun, and the battle on the Wuelpensand.

Another reference may probably be supplied by the much debated lines
14-16 from the Anglo-Saxon _Deor_, of which the most satisfactory
translation seems to be: "Many of us have heard of the harm of Hild;
the Jute's loves were unbounded, so that the care of love took
from him sleep altogether." Saxo, it is true, makes Hild's father
a Jute, instead of her lover, and Snorri apparently agrees with him
in making Hedin Norwegian; but in the _Gudrun_ Hettel is Frisian or
Jutish. The Anglo-Saxon _Widsith_ mentions in one line Hagena, king of
the Holmrygas (a Norwegian province), and Heoden, king of the Glommas
(not identified), who may be the Hoegni and Hedin of this tale.

The Anglo-Saxon and German agree on another point where both differ
from the Norse. The Anglo-Saxon poem _Deor_ is supposed to be spoken
by a _scop_ or court poet who has been ousted from the favour of
his lord, a Heodening, by Heorrenda, another singer: "Once I was the
Heodenings' scop, dear to my lord: Deor was my name. Many a year I had
a good service and a gracious lord, until the song-skilled Hoerrenda
received the rights which the protector of men once granted me." Like
Heorrenda, Horant in the _Gudrun_ is a singer in the service of the
Heathnings. The Norse version keeps the name, and its connection with
the Heathnings, but gives Hjarrandi, as the hero's father, no active
part to play. In both points, arguing from the probable Frisian origin
of the story, the Anglo-Saxon and German are more likely to have the
correct form.

The legend is, like those of Walter and Hildigund, Helgi and Sigrun,
founded on the primary instincts of love and war. In the Norse
story of the Heathnings, however, the former element is almost
eliminated. It is from no love to Hedin that Hild accompanies him,
though Saxo would have it so. Nothing is clearer than that strife is
her only object. It is her mediation which brings about the battle,
when apparently both heroes would be quite willing to make peace; and
her arts which cause the daily renewal of fighting. This island battle
among dead and living is peculiar to the Norse version, and coloured
by, if not originating in, the Valhalla idea: Hoegni and Hedin and
their men are the Einherjar who fight every day and rest and feast
at night, Hild is a war-goddess. The conception of her character,
contrasting with the gentler part played by the Continental German
heroines (who are rather the causes than the inciters of strife),
can be paralleled from many of the sagas proper.

Hoegni's sword Dainsleif, forged by the dwarfs, as were all magic
weapons, is like the sword of Angantyr, in that it claims a victim
whenever it is drawn from the sheath: an idea which may easily have
arisen from the prowess of any famous swordsman.

_The Sword of Angantyr_.--Like the two last legends, Angantyr's
story is not represented in the Elder Edda; it is not even told by
Snorri. Yet poems belonging to the cycle survive (preserved by good
fortune in the late mythical _Hervarar Saga_) which among the heroic
poems rank next in artistic beauty to the Helgi Lays. Since the story
possesses besides a striking originality, and is connected with the
name of a Pan-Germanic hero, the Ongendtheow of Old English poetry,
I cannot follow the example of most editors and omit it from the
heroic poems.

Like the Volsung legend it is the story of a curse; and there is a
general similarity of outline, with the exception that the hero is in
this case a woman. The curse-laden treasure is here the sword Tyrfing,
which Svafrlami got by force from the dwarfs. They laid a curse on it:
that it should bring death to its bearer, no wound it made should be
healed, and it should claim a victim whenever it was unsheathed. In
the saga, the story is spread over several generations: partly, no
doubt, in order to include varying versions; partly also in imitation
of the true Icelandic family saga. The chief actors in the legend,
beside the sword, are Angantyr and his daughter Hervoer.

The earlier history of Tyrfing is told in the saga. Svafrlami is
killed, with the magic weapon itself, by the viking Arngrim, who thus
gains possession of it; when he is slain in his turn, it descends to
Angantyr, the eldest of his twelve berserk sons. For a while no one
can withstand them, but the doom overtakes them at last in the battle
of Samsey against the Swedes Arrow-Odd and Hjalmar. In berserk-rage,
the twelve brothers attack the Swedish ships, and slay every man
except the two leaders who have landed on the island. The battle
over, the berserks go ashore, and there when their fury is past, they
are attacked by the two Swedish champions. Odd fights eleven of the
brothers, but Hjalmar has the harder task in meeting Angantyr and his
sword. All the twelve sons of Arngrim fall, and Hjalmar is mortally
wounded by Tyrfing. The survivor buries his twelve foemen where they
fell, and takes his comrade's body back to Sweden. The first poem
gives the challenge of the Swedish champions, and Hjalmar's dying song.

Hervoer, the daughter of Angantyr, is in some respects a female
counterpart of Sigurd. Like him, she is born after her father's death,
and brought up in obscurity. When she learns her father's name, she
goes forth without delay to claim her inheritance from the dead, even
with the curse that goes with it. Here the second poem begins. On
reaching the island where her father fell, she asks a shepherd to
guide her to the graves of Arngrim's sons:

"I will ask no hospitality, for I know not the islanders; tell me
quickly, where are the graves called Hjoervard's howes?"

He is unwilling: "The man is foolish who comes here alone in the dark
shade of night: fire is flickering, howes are opening, field and fen
are aflame," and flees into the woods, but Hervoer is dauntless and
goes on alone. She reaches the howes, and calls on the sons of Arngrim:

"Awake, Angantyr! Hervoer calls thee, only daughter to thee and
Tofa. Give me from the howe the keen sword which the dwarfs forged
for Svafrlami, Hervard, Hjoervard, Hrani, Angantyr! I call you all
from below the tree-roots, with helm and corselet, with sharp sword,
shield and harness, and reddened spear."

Angantyr denies that the sword is in his howe: "Neither father, son,
nor other kinsmen buried me; my slayers had Tyrfing;" but Hervoer does
not believe him. "Tell me but truth.... Thou art slow to give thine
only child her heritage." He tries to frighten her back to the ships
by describing the sights she will see, but she only cries again,
"Give me Hjalmar's slayer from the howe, Angantyr!"

A. "Hjalmar's slayer lies under my shoulders; it is all wrapped in
fire; I know no maid on earth who dare take that sword in her hands."

H. "I will take the sharp sword in my hands, if I can get it: I fear
no burning fire, the flame sinks as I look on it."

A. "Foolish art thou, Hervoer the fearless, to rush into the fire
open-eyed. I will rather give thee the sword from the howe, young maid;
I cannot refuse thee."

H. "Thou dost well, son of vikings, to give me the sword from the
howe. I think its possession better than to win all Norway."

Her father warns her of the curse, and the doom that the sword
will bring, and she leaves the howes followed by his vain wish:
"Would that I could give thee the lives of us twelve, the strength
and energy that we sons of Arngrim left behind us!"

It is unnecessary here to continue the story as the saga does, working
out the doom over later generations; over Hervoer's son Heidrek, who
forfeited his head to Odin in a riddle-contest, and over his children,
another Angantyr, Hlod, and a second Hervoer. The verse sources for
this latter part are very corrupt.

A full discussion of the relation between the Eddic and the Continental
versions of the heroic tales summarised in the foregoing pages would,
of course, be far beyond the scope of this study; the utmost that
can be done in that direction is to suggest a few points. Three of
the stories are not concerned in this section: Helgi and Frodi are
purely Scandinavian cycles; while though Angantyr is a well-known
heroic name (in _Widsith_ Ongendtheow is king of the Swedes), the
legend attached to his name in the Norse sources does not survive
elsewhere. The Weland cycle is perhaps common property. None of the
versions localise it, for the names in _Voelundarkvida_, Wolfdale,
Myrkwood, &c., are conventional heroic place-names. It was popular at a
very early date in England, and is probably a Pan-Germanic legend. The
Sigurd and Hild stories, on the contrary, are both, in all versions,
localised on the Continent, the former by the Rhine, the latter in
Friesland or Jutland; both, therefore, in Low German country, whence
they must have spread to the other Germanic lands. To England they were
doubtless carried by the Low German invaders of the sixth century. On
the question of their passage to the North there are wide differences
of opinion. Most scholars agree that there was an earlier and a later
passage, the first taking Hild, Ermanric, and the Volsung story; the
second, about the twelfth or thirteenth century, the Volsungs again,
with perhaps Dietrich and Attila. But there is much disagreement as to
the date of the first transmission. Muellenhoff put it as early as 600;
Konrad Maurer, in the ninth and tenth centuries; while Dr. Golther
is of opinion that the Volsung story passed first to the vikings in
France, and then westward over Ireland to Iceland; therefore also not
before the ninth century. Such evidence as is afforded by the very
slight English references makes it probable that the Scandinavians
had the tales later than the English, a view supported by the more
highly developed form of the Norse version, and, in the case of the
Volsung cycle, its greater likeness to the Continental German. The
earliest Norse references which can be approximately dated are in the
Skald Bragi (first half of the ninth century), who knew all three
stories: the Hild and Ermanric tales he gives in outline; his only
reference to the Volsungs is a kenning, "the Volsungs' drink," for
serpent. With the possible exception of the Anglo-Saxon fragments,
the Edda preserves on the whole the purest versions of those stories
which are common to all, though, as might be expected, the Continental
sources sometimes show greater originality in isolated details. These
German sources have entangled the different cycles into one involved
mass; but in the Norse the extraneous elements are easily detached.

The motives of heroic tales are limited in number and more or less
common to different races. Heroic cycles differ as a rule merely in
their choice or combination of incidents, not in the nature of their
material. The origin of these heroic motives may generally be found in
primitive custom or conditions of life, seized by an imaginative people
and woven into legend; sometimes linked to the name of some dead tribal
hero, just as the poets of a later date wound the same traditions
in still-varying combinations round the names of Gretti Asmundarson
and Gold-Thori; though often the hero is, like the Gods, born of the
myth. In the latter case, the story is pure myth; in the former it
is legend, or a mixture of history and legend, as in the Ermanric
and Dietrich tales, which have less interest for the mythologist.

The curse-bringing treasure, one of the most fruitful Germanic
motives, probably has its origin in the custom of burying a dead man's
possessions with him. In the _Waterdale Saga_, Ketil Raum, a viking
of the eighth and early ninth centuries, reproaches his son Thorstein
as a degenerate, in that he expects to inherit his father's wealth,
instead of winning fortune for himself: "It used to be the custom
with kings and earls, men of our kind, that they won for themselves
fortune and fame; wealth was not counted as a heritage, nor would sons
inherit from their fathers, but rather lay their possessions in the
howe with them." It is easy to see that when this custom came into
conflict with the son's natural desire to inherit, the sacrosanctity
of the dead man's treasure and of his burial-mound would be their only
protection against violation. The fear of the consequences of breaking
the custom took form in the myth of the curse, as in the sword of
Angantyr and the Nibelungs' hoard; while the dangers attending the
violation of the howe were personified in the dragon-guardian. In
_Gold-Thori's Saga_, the dead berserks whose howe Thori enters, are
found guarding their treasure in the shape of dragons; while Thori
himself is said to have turned into a dragon after death.

Marriage with alien wives, which in the case of the Mastermaid story
has been postulated as means of transmission and as the one possible
explanation of its nearly universal diffusion, may perhaps with more
simplicity be assumed as the common basis in custom for independently
arising myths of this type. The attempts of the bride's kindred to
prevent the marriage, and of the bridegroom's to undo it, would be
natural incidents in such a story, and the magic powers employed by
and against the bride would be the mythical representatives of the
mutually unfamiliar customs of alien tribes. This theory at least
offers a credible explanation of the hero's temporary oblivion of
or unfaithfulness to his protectress, after their successful escape

In the Valkyrie-brides, Brynhild and Sigrun, with their double
attributes of fighting and wisdom, there is an evident connexion
with the Germanic type of woman preserved in the allusions of Caesar
and Tacitus, which reaches its highest development in the heroines
of the Edda. Any mythical or ideal conception of womanhood combines
the two primitive instincts, love and fighting, even though the woman
may be only the innocent cause of strife, or its passive prize. The
peculiarity of the Germanic representation is that the woman is never
passive, but is herself the incarnation of both instincts. Even
if she is not a Valkyrie, nor taking part herself in the fight,
she is ready, like the wives of the Cimbri, to drive the men back
to the battle from which they have escaped. Hild and Hervoer are at
one extreme: war is their spiritual life. Love is in Hild nothing
more than instinct; in Hervoer it is not even that: she would desire
nothing from marriage beyond a son to inherit the sword. At the other
extreme is Sigrun, who has the warlike instinct, but is spiritually a
lover as completely and essentially as Isolde or Juliet. The interest
in Signy lies in the way in which she sacrifices what are usually
considered the strongest feminine instincts, without, however, by
any means abandoning them, to her uncompromising revenge and pride
of race. Her pride in her son seems to include something of both
trains of feeling; and she dies with the husband she detests, simply
because he is her husband. Brynhild, lastly, is a highly modern type,
as independent in love as in war. It is impossible to imagine Sigrun,
or Wagner's Sieglinde, taking her revenge on a faithless lover;
from no lack of spirit, but simply because revenge would have given
no comfort to either. To Brynhild it is not only a distinct relief,
but the only endurable end; she can forgive when she is avenged.

The other motives of these stories may be briefly enumerated. The
burning of Brynhild and Signy, and Sigrun's entrance into the howe,
are mythical reminiscences of widow-burial. The "sister's son" is
preserved in the Sigmund and Sinfjoetli tale, which also has a trace
of animism in the werwolf episode. The common swanmaid motive occurs
in two, the Voelund story and the legend of Helgi and Kara; while the
first Helgi tale suggests the Levirate in the proposed marriage of
Svava to her husband's brother. The waverlowe of the Volsung myth
may be traced back to the midsummer fires; the wooing of Brynhild
by Sigurd's crossing the fire would thus, like the similar bridal
of Menglad and Svipdag and the winning of Gerd for Frey, be based on
the marriages which formed a part of agricultural rites.

Bibliographical Notes

To avoid confusion, and in view of the customary loose usage of the
word "saga," it may be as well to state that it is here used only in
its technical sense of a prose history.

_Voelund_. (Pages 5 to 8.)

Dr. Rydberg formulates a theory identifying Voelund with Thiazi,
the giant who carried off Idunn. It is based chiefly on arguments
from names and other philological considerations, and gives perhaps
undue weight to the authority of Saxo. It is difficult to see any
fundamental likenesses in the stories.

The Old English references to Weland are in the _Waldere_ fragment
and the _Lament of Deor_. For the Franks Casket, see Professor
Napier's discussion, with photographs, in the _English Miscellany_
(Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1901). The _Thidreks Saga_ (sometimes
called _Vilkina Saga_), was edited by Unger (Christiania, 1853),
and by Hylten-Cavallius (1880). There are two German translations:
by Rassmann (_Heldensage,_ (1863), and by Von der Hagen (_Nordische
Heldenromane_, 1873).

_The Volsungs_. (Pages 8 to 27.)

As divided in most editions the poems connected with the Volsung cycle,
including the two on Ermanric, are fifteen in number:


_Reginsmal, Fafnismal, Sigrdrifumal_, a continued narrative compiled
from different sources.

_Sigurd Fragment_, on the death of Sigurd.

_First Gudrun Lay_, on Gudrun's mourning, late.

_Short Sigurd Lay_ (called _Long Brynhild Lay_ in the _Corpus
Poeticum_; sometimes called _Third Sigurd Lay_). style late.

_Brynhild's Hellride_, a continuation of the preceding.

_Second_, or _Old, Gudrun Lay_, is also late. It contains more kennings
than are usual in Eddic poetry, and the picture of Gudrun's sojourn in
Denmark and the tapestry she wrought with Thora Halfdan's daughter,
together with the descriptions of her suitors, belong to a period
which had a taste for colour and elaboration of detail.

_Third Gudrun Lay_, or the _Ordeal of Gudrun_ (after her marriage to
Atli), is romantic in character. The Gothic hero Thjodrek (Dietrich)
is introduced.

_Oddrun's Lament_, in which Gunnar's death is caused by an intrigue
with Atli's sister Oddrun, marks the disintegration of the Volsung

The two Atli Lays _(Atlakvida_ and _Atlamal_, the latter of Greenland
origin), deal with the death of Gunnar and Hoegni, and Gudrun's
vengeance on Atli.

_Gudrun's Lament_ and _Hamthismal_ belong to the Ermanric cycle.

_Volsung Paraphrases_. (Page 11.)

_Skaldskaparmal, Voelsunga Saga_ and _Norna-Gests Thattr_ (containing
another short paraphrase) are all included in Dr. Wilken's _Die
Prosaische Edda_ (Paderborn, 1878). There is an English version of
_Voelsunga_ by Magnusson and Morris (London, 1870) and a German version
of _Voelsunga_ and _Norna-Gest_ by Edzardi.

_Nibelungenlied_. (Page 11.)

Editions by Bartsch (Leipzig, 1895) and Zarncke (Halle, 1899);
translation into modern German by Simrock.

_Signy and Siggeir_. (Page 13.)

Saxo Grammaticus (Book vii.) tells the story of a Signy, daughter
of Sigar, whose lover Hagbard, after slaying her brothers, wins her
favour. Sigar in vengeance had him strangled on a hill in view of
Signy's windows, and she set fire to her house that she might die
simultaneously with her lover. The antiquity of part at least of this
story is proved by the kenning "Hagbard's collar" for halter, in a
poem probably of the tenth century. On the other hand, a reference
in _Voelsunga Saga_, that "Haki and Hagbard were great and famous
men, yet Sigar carried off their sister, ... and they were slow to
vengeance," shows that there is confusion somewhere. It seems possible
that Hagbard's story has been contaminated with a distorted account
of the Volsung Signy, civilised as usual by Saxo, with an effect of
vulgarity absent from the primitive story.

In a recently published pamphlet by Mr. W.W. Lawrence and
Dr. W.H. Schofield (_The First Riddle of Cynewulf_ and _Signy's
Lament_. Baltimore: The Modern Language Association of America. 1902)
it is suggested that the so-called First Riddle in the Exeter Book
is in reality an Anglo-Saxon translation of a Norse "Complaint"
spoken by the Volsung Signy. Evidence from metre and form is all in
favour of this view, and the poem bears the interpretation without any
straining of the meaning. Dr. Schofield's second contention, that the
poem thus interpreted is evidence for the theory of a British origin
for the Eddie poems, is not equally convincing. The existence in
Anglo-Saxon of a translation from the Norse is no proof that any
of the Eddie poems, or even the original Norse "Signy's Lament"
postulated by Dr. Schofield, were composed in the West.

It seems unnecessary to suppose, with Dr. Schofield, an influence of
British legend on the Volsung story. The points in which the story
of Sigmund resembles that of Arthur and differs from that of Theseus
prove nothing in the face of equally strong points of correspondence
between Arthur and Theseus which are absent from the Volsung story.

_Sinfjoetli's Death_. (Page 14.)

Munch (_Nordmaendenes Gudelaere_, Christiania, 1847) ingeniously
identified the old man with Odin, come in person to conduct Sinfjoetli
to Valhalla, since he would otherwise have gone to Hel, not having
fallen in battle; a stratagem quite in harmony with Odin's traditional

_Sigmund and Sinfjoetli_. (Page 15.)

It seems probable, on the evidence of _Beowulf_, that Sigmund and
Sinfjoetli represent the Pan-Germanic stage of the national-hero, and
Sigurd or Siegfried the Continental stage. Possibly Helgi may then be
the Norse race-hero. Sigurd was certainly foreign to Scandinavia; hence
the epithet Hunnish, constantly applied to him, and the localising
of the legend by the Rhine. The possibility suggests itself that the
Brynhild part of the story, on the other hand, is of Scandinavian
origin, and thence passed to Germany. It is at least curious that
the _Nibelungen Lied_ places Prunhilt in Iceland.

_Wagner and the Volsung Cycle_. (Page 26.)

Wagner's _Ring des Nibelungen_ is remarkable not only for the way
in which it reproduces the spirit of both the Sinfjoetli and the
Sigurd traditions, but also for the wonderful instinct which chooses
the best and most primitive features of both Norse and Continental
versions. Thus he keeps the dragon of the Norse, the Nibelungs of
the German; preserves the wildness of the old Sigmund tale, and
substitutes the German Hagen for his paler Norse namesake; restores
the original balance between the parts of Brynhild and Gudrun; gives
the latter character, and an active instead of a passive function
in the story, by assigning to her her mother's share in the action;
and by substituting for the slaying of the otter the bargain with
the Giants for the building of Valhalla, makes the cause worthy of
the catastrophe.

_Ermanric_. (Page 27.)

For examples of legend becoming attached to historical names, see
Tylor's _Primitive Culture_.

_The Helgi Lays_. (Page 29.)

The Helgi Lays stand before the Volsung set in the MS.; I treat them
later for the sake of greater clearness.

_Helgi and Kara_. (Page 30.)

_Hromundar Saga Gripssonar_, in which this story is given, is worthless
as literature, and has not been recently edited. P.E. Mueller's
_Sagabibliothek_, in which it was published, is out of print. Latin and
Swedish translations may be found in Bjoerner's _Nordiske Kampa Dater_
(Stockholm, 1737), also out of print.

_Rebirth_. (Page 31.)

Dr. Storm has an interesting article on the Norse belief in Re-birth in
the _Arkiv for Nordisk Filologi_, ix. He collects instances, and among
other arguments points out the Norse custom of naming a posthumous
child after its dead father as a probable relic of the belief. The
inheritance of luck may perhaps be another survival; a notable instance
occurs in _Viga-Glums Saga_, where the warrior Vigfus bequeaths his
luck to his favourite grandson, Glum. In the _Waterdale Saga_ there
are two instances in which it is stated that the luck of the dead
grandfather will pass to the grandson who receives his name. Scholars
do not, however, agree as to the place of the rebirth idea in the Helgi
poems, some holding the view that it is an essential part of the story.

_Hunding_. (Page 32.)

It is possible that the werwolf story is a totem survival. If so,
the Hunding feud might easily belong to it: dogs are the natural
enemies of wolves. It is curious that the Irish werwolf Cormac has
a feud with MacCon (_i.e._, Son of a Dog), which means the same as
Hunding. This story, which has not been printed, will be found in
the Bodleian MS. Laud, 610.

_Thorgerd Holgabrud_. (Page 33.)

Told in Saxo, Book ii. Snorri has a bare allusion to it.

_Holger Danske, or Ogier Le Danois_. (Page 33.)

See _Corpus Poeticum Boreale_, vol. i. p. cxxx., and No. 10 of this
series. The Norse version of the story (Helgi Thorisson) is told in
the Saga of Olaf Tryggvason, and is summarised by Dr. Rydberg in the
_Teutonic Mythology_, and by Mr. Nutt in the _Voyage of Bran_.

_Ballads_. (Page 36.)

Professor Child is perhaps hasty in regarding the two parts of _Clerk
Saunders_ as independent. The first part, though unlike the Helgi
story in circumstance, seems to preserve the tradition of the hero's
hostility to his bride's kindred, and his death at their hands.

The Helgi story, in all its variants, is as familiar in Danish as in
Border ballads. The distribution of the material in Iceland, Denmark,
England and Scotland is strongly in favour of the presumption that
Scandinavian legend influenced England and Scotland, and against the
presumption that the poems in question passed from the British Isles
to Iceland. The evidence of the Danish ballads should be conclusive
on this point. There is an English translation of the latter by
R.C.A. Prior (_Ancient Danish Ballads_, London, 1860).

_The Everlasting Battle_. (Page 39.)

The Skald Bragi (before 850 A.D.) has a poem on this subject,
given with a translation in the _Corpus_, vol. ii. Saxo's version
is in the fifth book of his History. According to Bragi, Hild has a
necklace, which has caused comparison of this story with that of the
Greek Eriphyle. Irish legendary history describes a similar battle
in which the slain revive each night and renew the fight daily, as
occurring in the wanderings of the Tuatha De Danann before they reached
Ireland. According to Keating, they learnt the art of necromancy in
the East, and taught it to the Danes.

The latest edition of the _Gudrun_ is by Ernst Martin (second edition,
Halle, 1902). There is a modern German translation by Simrock.

_Angantyr_. (Page 42.)

The poems of this cycle are four in number--(1) _Hjalmar's
Death-song_: (2) _Angantyr and Hervoer_; (3) _Heidrek's Riddle-Poem_:
(4) _Angantyr the Younger and Hlod_. All are given in the first volume
of the _Corpus_, with translations.

_Herrarar Saga_ was published by Rafn (Copenhagen, 1829-30) in
_Fornaldar Soegur_, vol. i., now out of print. It has been more recently
edited by Dr. Bugge, together with _Voelsunga_ and others. Petersen
(Copenhagen, 1847) edited it with a Danish translation. Munch's
_Nordmuendenes Gudelaere_ (out of print) contains a short abstract.

_Death of Angantyr_. (Page 43.)

Angantyr's death is related by Saxo, Book v., with entire exclusion
of all mythical interest.

_Transmission of Legends_. (Page 47.)

Muellenhoff's views are given in the _Zeitschrift fuer deutsches
Altertum_, vol. x.; Maurer's in the _Zeitschrift fuer deutsche
Philologie_, vol. ii. For Golther's views on the Volsung cycle see
_Germania_, 33.

_The Dragon Myth_. (Page 49.)

See also Hartland, _Science of Fairy-Tales_.

The eating of the dragon's heart (see p. 19) may possibly be a survival
of the custom of eating a slain enemy's heart to obtain courage,
of which Dr. Frazer gives examples in the _Golden Bough_.

_Alien Wives_. (Page 49.)

For the theory of alien wives as a means of transmission, see Lang,
_Custom and Myth_ (London, 1893).

_The Sister's Son_. (Page 51.)

See Mr. Gummere's article in the _English Miscellany_; and Professor
Rhys' Presidential Address to the Anthropological Section of the
British Association, 1900. The double relationship between Sigmund
and Sinfjoetli (not uncommon in heroic tales; compare Conchobhar and
Cuchulainn, Arthur and Mordred) seems in this case due to the same
cause as the custom which prevailed in the dynasty of the Ptolemies,
where the king often married his sister, that his heir might be of
the pure royal blood.

_Swanmaids_. (Page 51.)

See Hartland, _Science of Fairy-Tales._

_The Waverlowe_. (Page 51.)

Dr. Frazer (_Golden Bough_) gives instances of ritual marriages
connected with the midsummer fires. For _Svipdag and Menglad_, see
Study No. 12 of this series. If Rydberg, as seems very probable, is
right in identifying Menglad and Svipdag with Freyja and the mortal
lover who wins her and whom she afterwards loses, the story would
be a parallel to those of Venus and Adonis, Ishtar and Tammuz, &c.,
which Frazer derives from the ritual marriage of human sacrifices to
the Goddess of fertility. The reason given in the Edda for Brynhild's
sleep, and her connexion with Odin, are secondary, arising from the
Valhalla myth.

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