The Völsungasaga (often referred to in English as the Volsunga Saga or Saga of the Völsungs) is a legendary saga, a late 13th century Icelandic prose rendition of the origin and decline of the Völsung clan (including the story of Sigurd and Brynhild and destruction of the Burgundians). It is largely based on epic poetry. The earliest known pictorial representation of this tradition is the Ramsund carving, Sweden, which was created c. 1000 AD.
The origins of the material are considerably older, however, and it echoes real events in Central Europe during the fifth and sixth centuries. On the other hand, the only manuscript of the saga, Ny kgl. Saml. 1824 b 4to, dates to about 1400. In this manuscript, the saga leads straight in to Ragnars saga loðbrókar.
The Middle High German epic poem Nibelungenlied is based largely on the old stories, which were commonly known in all of the Germanic lands from the early Middle Ages on, but reworks the material into a courtly medieval setting.
Among the more notable adaptations of this text are Richard Wagner's operatic tetralogy, Der Ring des Nibelungen, Ernest Reyer's opera Sigurd, and William Morris's epic poem The Story of Sigurd the Volsung and the Fall of the Niblungs.
The Saga of the Volsungs
The story starts out following a man named Sigi who is said to be a descendant of Odin. Sigi goes hunting with a thrall named Bredi who ends up with a greater kill than Sigi. Sigi becomes upset kills and burries Bredi in a snowdrift. Upon returning Sigi tells a man named Skadi that Bredi disappeared. Skadi being doubtful searches, finds Bredi and prounounces Sigi to be an outlaw. Sigi is then guided out by Odin, where he loots and pillages warships and eventually takes a kingdom as his own. Sigi is eventually killed in battle, but his son, Rerir, being spared, gathered troops and retook his rightful kingdom. As Rerir aged he and his wife were unable to produce a child and prayed to Odin, who sent Hrimnir to him with an apple. The queen soon became pregnant, but was unable to give birth for six years. Rerir took a journey and became sick and died before his son was born. When the son was born he was well grown and named Volsung. Volsung became a great warrior and married Hrimnir's daughter Hljod. This marriage produced ten sons, the eldest being twins, the boy named Sigmund and the daughter Signy. King Siggeir, ruler of Gautland, came to King Volsung and asked for his daughters hand in marriage. Signy asked her father to deny the marriage, but he denied this request. During the ceremony a hooded figure came, he thrust a sword into a trunk and proclaimed the man who could retrieve this sword would never find a better one. Many tried to pull the sword out, but only Sigmund was able to pull it out. Siggeir tried to buy the sword in gold from Sigmund, but Sigmund refused his offer. The next day King Siggeir asked if he could leave early, but invite Volsung and his family to his estate at a later time. King Volsung agreed to this offer. After this Signy pleaded with her father to dissolve the marriage because it would bring great trouble to their family. Volsung again denied her request and told her this was the honorable thing to do. Volsung and his sons traveled to Gautland to find Signy who warned them of Siggeir's plot to kill them all. King Volsung said he would not run away, but would be ready for the battle. King Volsung and his sons fought valiantly until Volsung was killed. At this point all ten sons were captured and at the request of Signy bound and taken to the forest. Here a she-wolf came and ate nine of the ten sons night after night until Signy devised a plan for her brother Sigmund to survive. With Sigmund free Signy devised a plan for revenge sending her sons to Sigmund in his hideout. When the sons were tested Sigmund killed them both because they were not brave enough for him. Without a son for Sigmund, Signy switched forms with a sorceress and went out to see Sigmund. She asked to stay with him and for three nights slept with Sigmund and eventually bore him a son. She tested this son, named Sinfjotli and sent him to Sigmund. Sigmund again tested the boy, by having him knead bread with a snake inside. The boy passed the test At first Sigmund went on many adventures with the boy. They looted a house of old men and took their hides, which transformed them into wolves. They went separate ways agreeing to call on each other if battles became too tough. One night Sinfjotli did not call out when he needed help, but won the battle anyway. Sigmund became upset and bit Sinfjotli in the windpipe, but on the tenth day they did not come out of their skins. One day Sigmund saw a similar situation with weasels, where they dropped a leaf on the windpipe and the other came to life. Sigmund repeated this maneuver as he had seen and Sinfjotli awoke. They took off their wolfskins when they were able to and went ot Siggeir's kingdom. Sigmund and Sinfjotli battled with Siggeir's men, but were overpowered and held captive. Signy later threw hay that held Sigmund's sword in the area where they were held captive. They sawed through the rock they sat by and started a fire where the eventually burned Siggeir and his men. Sigmund soon became an excellent king and married a woman named Borghild. The two bore two sons named Helgi and Hamund. It was said that Helgi would be a great king. When Helgi grew he made many accomplishments and asked Sinfjotli to accompany him in his adventures.
Full article ▸