Chapter 8 - The Death of King Siggeir and of Stigny.
The tale tells that Sigmund thought Sinfjotli over young to help him to his revenge, and will first of all harden him with manly deeds; so in summer-tide they
fare wide through the woods and slay men for their wealth; Sigmund deems him to take much after the kin of the Volsungs, though he thinks that he is Siggeir's
son, and deems him to have the evil heart of his father, with the might and daring of the Volsungs; withal he must needs think him in no wise a kinsome man, for
full oft would he bring Sigmund's wrongs to his memory, and prick him on to slay King Siggeir.
Now on a time as they fare abroad in the wood for the getting of wealth, they find a certain house, and two men with great gold rings asleep therein: now these
twain were spell-bound skin-changers,1 and wolf-skins were hanging up over them in the house; and every tenth day might they come out of those skins; and
they were kings' sons: so Sigmund and Sinfjofli do the wolf-skins on them, and then might they nowise come out of them, though forsooth the same nature went
with them as heretofore; they howled as wolves howl but both knew the meaning of that howling; they lay out in the wild-wood, and each went his way; and a word
they made betwixt them, that they should risk the onset of seven men, but no more, and that he who was first to be set on should howl in wolfish wise: "Let us
not depart from this," says Sigmund, "for thou art young and over-bold, and men will deem the quarry good, when they take thee."
Now each goes his way, and when they were parted, Sigmund meets certain men, and gives forth a wolf's howl; and when Sinfjotli heard it, he went straightway
thereto, and slew them all, and once more they parted. But ere Sinfjotli has fared long through the woods, eleven men meet him, and he wrought in such wise
that he slew them all, and was awearied therewith, and crawls under an oak, and there takes his rest. Then came Sigmund thither, and said--
"Why didst thou not call on me?"
Sinfjotli said, "I was loth to call for thy help for the slaying of eleven men."
Then Sigmund rushed at him so hard that he staggered and fell, and Sigmund bit him in the throat. Now that day they might not come out of their wolf-skins: but
Sigmund lays the other on his back, and bears him home to the house, and cursed the wolf-gears and gave them to the trolls. Now on a day he saw where two
weasels went and how that one bit the other in the throat, and then ran straightway into the thicket, and took up a leaf and laid in on the wound, and thereon
his fellow sprang up quite and clean whole; so Sigmund went out and saw a raven flying with a blade of that same herb to him; so he took it and drew it over
Sinfjotli's hurt, and he straightway sprang up as whole as though he had never been hurt. There after they went home to their earth-house, and abode there till
the time came for them to put off the wolf-shapes; then they burnt them up with fire, and prayed that no more hurt might come to any one from them; but in that
uncouth guise they wrought many famous deeds in the kingdom and lordship of King Siggeir.
Now when Sinfjotli was come to man's estate, Sigmund deemed he had tried him fully, and or ever a long time has gone by he turns his mind to the avenging of his
father; if so it may be brought about; so on s certain day the twain get them gone from their earth-house, and come to the abode of King Siggeir late in the
evening, and go into the porch before the hall, wherein were tuns of ale, and there they lie hid: now the queen is ware of them, where they are, and is fain to
meet them; and when they met they took counsel and were of one mind that Volsung should be revenged that same night.
Now Signy and the king had two children of tender age, who played with a golden toy on the floor, and bowled it along the pavement of the hall, running along
with it; but therewith a golden ring from off it trundles away into the place where Sigmund and Sinfjotli lay, and off runs the little one to search for the
same, and beholds withal where two men axe sitting, big and grimly to look on, with overhanging helms and bright white byrnies;2 so he runs up the hall to
his father, and tells him of the sight he has seen, and thereat the king misdoubts of some guile abiding him; but Signy heard their speech, and arose and took
both the children, and went out into the porch to them and said--
"Lo ye! These younglings have bewrayed you; come now therefore and slay them!"
Sigmund says, "Never will I slay thy children for telling of where I lay hid."
But Sinfjotli made little enow of it, but drew his sword and slew them both, and cast them into the hall at King Siggeir's feet.
Then up stood the king and cried on his men to take those who had lain privily in the porch through the night. So they ran thither and would lay hands on them,
but they stood on their defence well and manly, and long he remembered it who was the nighest to them; but in the end they were borne down by many men and
taken, and bonds were set upon them, and they were cast into fetters wherein they sit night long.
Then the king ponders what longest and worst of deaths he shall mete out to them; and when morning came he let make a great barrow of stones and turf; and when
it was done, let set a great flat stone midmost inside thereof, so that one edge was aloft, the other alow; and so great it was that it went from wall to wall,
so that none might pass it.
Now he bids folk take Sigmund and Sinfjotli and set them in the barrow, on either side of the stone, for the worse for them he deemed it, that they might hear
each the other's speech, and yet that neither might pass one to the other. But now, while they were covering in the barrow with the turf-slips, thither came
Signy, bearing straw with her, and cast it down to Sinfjotli, and bade the thralls hide this thing from the king; they said yea thereto, and therewithal was the
barrow closed in.
But when night fell, Sinfjotli said to Sigmund, "Belike we shall scarce need meat for a while, for here has the queen cast swine's flesh into the barrow, and
wrapped it round about on the outer side with straw."
Therewith he handles the flesh and finds that therein was thrust Sigmund's sword; and he knew it by the hilts as mirk as it might be in the barrow, and tells
Sigmund thereof, and of that were they both fain enow.
Now Sinfjotli drave the point of the sword up into the big stone, and drew it hard along, and the sword bit on the stone. With that Sigmund caught the sword by
the point, and in this wise they sawed the stone between them, and let not or all the sawing was done that need be done, even as the song sings:
Now are they both together loose in the barrow, and soon they cut both through stone and through iron, and bring themselves out thereof. Then they go home to
the hall, whenas all men slept there, and bear wood to the hall, and lay fire therein; and withal the folk therein are waked by the smoke, and by the hall
burning over their heads.
Then the king cries out, "Who kindled this fire, I burn withal?"
"Here am I," says Sigmund, "with Sinfjotli, my sister's son; and we are minded that thou shalt wot well that all the Volsungs are not yet dead."
Then he bade his sister come out, and take all good things at his hands, and great honour, and fair atonement in that wise, for all her griefs.
But she answered, "Take heed now, and consider, if I have kept King Siggeir in memory, and his slaying of Volsung the king! I let slay both my children, whom I
deemed worthless for the revenging of our father, and I went into the wood to thee in a witch-wife's shape; and now behold, Sinfjotli is the son of thee and of
me both! And therefore has he this so great hardihood and fierceness, in that he is the son both of Volsung's son and Volsung's daughter; and for this, and for
naught else, have I so wrought, that Siggeir might get his bane at last; and all these things have I done that vengeance might fall on him, and that I too might
not live long; and merrily now will I die with King Siggeir, though I was naught merry to wed him."
Therewith she kissed Sigmund her brother, and Sinfjotli, and went back again into the fire, and there she died with King Siggeir and all his good men.
But the two kinsmen gathered together folk and ships, and Sigmund went back to his father's land, and drave away thence the king, who had set himself down there
in the room of king Volsung.
So Sigmund became a mighty King and far-famed, wise and high-minded: he had to wife one named Borghild, and two sons they had between them, one named Helgi and
the other Hamund; and when Helgi was born, Norns came to him,3 and spake over him, and said that he should be in time to come the most renowned of all kings.
Even therewith was Sigmund come home from the wars, and so therewith he gives him the name of Helgi, and these matters as tokens thereof, Land of Rings,
Sun-litten Hill and Sharp-shearing Sword, and withal prayed that he might grow of great fame, and like unto the kin of the Volsungs.
And so it was that he grew up high-minded, and well beloved, and above all other men in all prowess; and the story tells that he went to the wars when he was
fifteen winters old. Helgi was lord and ruler over the army, but Sinfjotli was gotten to be his fellow herein; the twain bare sway thereover.
[1."Skin-changers" were universally believed in once, in Iceland no less than elsewhere, as see Ari in several places of his history, especially the episode
of Dufthach and Storwolf o' Whale. Men possessing the power of becoming wolves at intervals, in the present case compelled so to become, wer-wolves or
"loupsgarou", find large place in medieval story, but were equally well-known in classic times. Belief in them still lingers in parts of Europe where wolves
are to be found. Herodotus tells of the Neuri, who assumed once a year the shape of wolves; Pliny says that one of the family of Antaeus, chosen by lot
annually, became a wolf, and so remained for nine years; Giraldus Cambrensis will have it that Irishmen may become wolves; and Nennius asserts point-blank
that "the descendants of wolves are still in Ossory;" they retransform themselves into wolves when they bite. Apuleius, Petronius, and Lucian have similar
stories. The Emperor Sigismund convoked a council of theologians in the fifteenth century who decided that wer-wolves did exist.
2. Byrny (A.S. "byrne"), corslet, cuirass.
3. "Norns came to him." Nornir are the fates of the northern mythology. They are three--"Urd", the past; "Verdandi", the present; and "Skuld", the future.
They sit beside the fountain of Urd ("Urdarbrienur"), which is below one of the roots of "Yggdrasil", the world-tree, which tree their office it is to nourish
by sprinkling it with the water of the fountain.]
Þat er nú at segja, at Sigmundi þykkir Sinfjötli of ungr til hefnda með sér ok vill nú fyrst venja hann með nokkut harðræði; fara nú um sumrum
víða um skóga ok drepa menn til fjár sér. Sigmundi þykkir hann mjök í ætt Völsunga, ok þó hyggr hann, at hann sé sonr Siggeirs konungs, ok hyggr hann hafa illsku
föður síns, en kapp Völsunga, ok ætlar hann eigi mjök frændrækinn, því at hann minnir opt Sigmund á sína harma ok eggjar mjök at drepa Siggeir konung.
Nú er þat eitthvert sinn, at þeir fara enn á skóginn at afla sér fjár, en þeir finna eitt hús ok tvá menn sofandi í húsinu með digrum gullhringum.
Þeir höfðu orðit fyrir ósköpum, því at úlfahamir hengu í húsinu yfir þeim. It tíunda hvert dægr máttu þeir komast ór hömunum. Þeir váru konungasynir. Þeir Sigmundr
fóru í hamina ok máttu eigi ór komast, ok fylgdi sú náttúra, sem áðr var, létu ok vargsröddu. Þeir skildu báðir röddina. Nú leggjast þeir ok á merkr, ok ferr sína
leið hvárr þeira. Þeir gera þann mála með sér, at þeir skuli til hætta, þótt sjau menn sé, en eigi framar, en sá láta úlfsrödd, er fyrir ófriði yrði.
"Bregðum nú eigi af þessu," segir Sigmundr, "því at þú ert ungr ok áræðisfullr. Munu menn gott hyggja til at veiða þik."
Nú ferr sína leið hvárr þeira. Ok er þeir váru skildir, finnr Sigmundr sjau menn ok lætr úlfsröddu. Ok er Sinfjötli heyrir þat, ferr hann til
þegar ok drepr alla. Þeir skiljast enn. Ok er Sinfjötli hefir eigi lengi farit um skóginn, finnr hann ellefu menn ok berst við þá, ok ferr svá, at hann drepr
þá alla. Hann verðr ok sárr mjök, ferr undir eina eik, hvílist þar.
Eigi beið hann Sigmundar lengi, ok fara báðir samt um hríð.
Hann mælti til Sigmundar:
"Þú þátt lið til at drepa sjau menn, en ek em barn at aldri hjá þér, ok kvadda ek eigi liðs at drepa ellefu menn."
Sigmundr hleypr at honum svá hart, at hann stakar við ok fellr. Sigmundr bítr í barkann framan. Þann dag máttu þeir eigi komast ór úlfahömunum.
Sigmundr leggr hann nú á bak sér ok berr heim í skálann, ok sat hann yfir honum, en bað tröll taka úlfhamina. Sigmundr sér einn dag, hvar hreysikettir tveir váru,
ok bitr annarr í barkann öðrum, ok rann sá til skógar ok hefir eitt blað ok færir yfir sárit, ok sprettr upp hreysiköttrinn heill. Sigmundr gengr út ok sér, hvar
hrafn flýgr með blaðit ok færði honum. Hann dregr þetta yfir sárit Sinfjötla, en hann sprettr upp þegar heill, sem hann hefði aldri sárr verit. Eptir þat fara þeir
til jarðhúss ok eru þar, til þess er þeir skyldu fara ór úlfhömunum. Þá taka þeir ok brenna í eldi ok báðu engum at meini verða. Ok í þeim ósköpum unnu þeir mörg
frægðarverk í ríki Siggeirs konungs.
Ok er Sinfjötli er frumvaxti, þá þykkist Sigmundr hafa reynt hann mjök. Nú líðr eigi langt, áðr Sigmundr vill leita til föðurhefnda, ef svá vildi
takast. Ok nú fara þeir í brott frá jarðhúsinu einnhvern dag ok koma at bæ Siggeirs konungs síð um aptan ok ganga inn í forstofuna, þá er var fyrir höllinni, en
þar váru inni ölker, ok leynast þar.
Drottningin veit nú, hvar þeir eru, ok vill hitta þá. Ok er þau finnast, gera þau þat ráð, at þeir leitaði til föðurhefnda,
er náttaði. Þau Signý ok konungr eigu tvau börn ung at aldri. Þau leika sér á gólfinu at gulli ok renna því eptir gólfinu hallarinnar ok hlaupa þar eptir. Ok einn
gullhringr hrýtr utar í húsit, þar sem þeir Sigmundr eru, en sveinninn hleypr eptir at leita hringsins. Nú sér hann, hvar sitja tveir menn miklir ok grimmligir ok
hafa síða hjálma ok hvítar brynjur. Nú hleypr hann í höllina innar fyrir föður sinn ok segir honum, hvat hann hefir sét. Nú grunar konungr, at vera munu svik við
hann. Signý heyrir nú, hvat þeir segja. Hún stendr upp, tekr börnin bæði ok ferr utar í forstofuna til þeira ok mælti, at þeir skyldu þat vita, at þau hefði sagt
til þeira, --
"ok ræð ek ykkr, at þit drepið þau." Sigmundr segir:
"Eigi vil ek drepa börn þín, þótt þau hafi sagt til mín."
En Sinfjötli lét sér ekki feilast ok bregðr sverði ok drepr hvárttveggja barnit ok kastar þeim innar í höllina fyrir Siggeir konung. Konungr stendr nú upp ok heitr
á menn at taka þá menn, er leynzt höfðu í forstofunni um kveldit. Nú hlaupa menn utar þangat ok vilja höndla þá, en þeir verja sik vel ok drengiliga, ok þykkist þá
sá verst hafa lengi, er næst er. Ok um síðir verða þeir ofrliði bornir ok verða handteknir ok því næst í bönd reknir ok í fjötra settir, ok sitja þeir þar þá nótt
Nú hyggr konungr at fyrir sér, hvern dauða hann skal fá þeim, þann er kenndi lengst. Ok er morginn kom, þá lætr konungr haug mikinn gera af grjóti
ok torfi. Ok er þessi haugr er gerr, þá lét hann setja hellu mikla í miðjan hauginn, svá at annarr jaðarr hellunnar horfði upp, en annarr niðr. Hún var svá mikil,
at hún tók tveggja vegna, svá at eigi mátti komast hjá henni. Nú lætr hann taka þá Sigmund ok Sinfjötla ok setja í hauginn sínum megin hvárn þeirra, fyrir því at
honum þótti þeim þat verra at vera eigi báðum saman, en þó mátti heyra hvárr til annars. Ok er þeir váru at tyrfa hauginn, þá kemr Signý þar at ok hefir hálm í
fangi sér ok kastar í hauginn til Sinfjötla ok biðr þrælana leyna konunginn þessu. Þeir já því, ok er þá lokit aptr hauginum. Ok er nátta tekr, þá mælti Sinfjötli
"Ekki ætla ek okkr mat skorta um hríð. Hér hefir drottningin kastat fleski inn í hauginn ok vafit um utan hálmi."
Ok enn þreifar hann um fleskit ok finnr, at þar var stungit í sverði Sigmundar, ok kenndi at hjöltunum, er myrkt var í hauginum, ok segir Sigmundi. Þeir fagna því
báðir. Nú skýtr Sinfjötli blóðreflinum fyrir ofan helluna ok dregr fast. Sverðit bítr helluna. Sigmundr tekr nú blóðrefilinn, ok ristu nú í milli sín helluna ok
létta eigi, fyrr en lokit er at rista, sem kveðit er:
Ok nú eru þeir lausir báðir saman í hauginum ok rista bæði grjót ok járn ok komast svá út ór hauginum. Þeir ganga nú heim til hallarinnar. Eru menn
þá í svefni allir. Þeir bera við at höllinni ok leggja eld í viðinn, en þeir vakna við gufuna, er inni eru, ok þat, at höllin logar yfir þeim.
Konungr spyrr, hverir eldana gerði.
"Hér eru vit Sinfjötli, systursonr minn," sagði Sigmundr, "ok ætlum vit nú, at þat skulir þú vita, at eigi eru allir Völsungar dauðir."
Hann biðr systur sína út at ganga ok þiggja af honum góð metorð ok mikinn sóma ok vill svá bæta henni sína harma.
Hún svarar: "Nú skaltu vita, hvárt ek hefi munat Siggeiri konungi dráp Völsungs konungs. Ek lét drepa börn okkur, er mér þóttu of sein til föðurhefnda, ok ek fór í
skóg til þín í völulíki, ok er Sinfjötli okkarr sonr. Hefir hann af því mikit kapp, at hann er bæði sonarsonr ok dóttursonr Völsungs konungs. Hefi ek þar til unnit
alla hluti, at Siggeirr konungr skyldi bana fá. Hefi ek ok svá mikit til unnit, at fram kæmist hefndin, at mér er með engum kosti líft. Skal ek nú deyja með
Siggeiri konungi lostig, er ek átta hann nauðig."
Síðan kyssti hún Sigmund, bróður sinn, ok Sinfjötla ok gekk inn í eldinn ok bað þá vel fara. Síðan fekk hún þar bana með Siggeiri konungi ok allri hirð sinni.
Þeir frændr fá sér lið ok skipa, ok heldr Sigmundr til ættleifðar sinnar ok rekr ór landi þann konung, er þar hafði í setzt eptir Völsung konung.
Sigmundr gerist nú ríkr konungr ok ágætr, vitr ok stórráðr. Hann átti þá konu, er Borghildr hét. Þau áttu tvá sonu. Hét Helgi annarr, en annarr Hámundr. Ok er
Helgi var fæddr, kómu til nornir ok veittu honum formála ok mæltu, at hann skyldi verða allra konunga frægastr. Sigmundr var þá kominn frá orrostu ok gekk með
einum lauki í móti syni sínum, ok hér með gefr hann honum Helga nafn ok þetta at nafnfesti: Hringstaði ok Sólfjöll ok sverð, ok bað hann vel fremjast ok verða í
Hann gerist stórlyndr ok vinsæll ok fyrir flestum mönnum öðrum at allri atgervi. Þat er sagt, at hann réðst í hernað, þá er hann var fimmtán vetra
gamall. Var Helgi konungr yfir liðinu, en Sinfjötli var fenginn til með honum, ok réðu báðir liði.