Sigmund

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This article is about the mythological hero Sigmund, for other meanings see: Sigmund (disambiguation).

In Norse mythology, Sigmund is a hero whose story is told in the Volsunga saga. He and his sister, Signy, are the children of Völsung and his wife Ljod. Sigmund is best known as the father of Sigurd the dragon-slayer, though Sigurd's tale has almost no connections to the Völsung cycle.

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Völsunga saga

In the Völsunga saga, Signy marries Siggeir, the king of Gautland (modern Västergötland). Volsung and Sigmund are attending the wedding feast (which lasted for some time before and after the marriage), when Odin, in disguise of a beggar, plunges a sword into the living tree Barnstokk ("offspring-trunk"[1]) around which Volsung's hall is built. The disguised Odin announces that the man who can remove the sword will have it as a gift. Only Sigmund is able to free the sword from the tree.

Siggeir is smitten with envy and desire for the sword. Siggeir invites Sigmund, his father Völsung and Sigmund's nine brothers to visit him in Gautland to see the newlyweds three months later. When the Völsung clan arrive they are attacked by the Gauts; king Völsung is killed and his sons captured. Signy beseeches her husband to spare her brothers and to put them in stocks instead of killing them. As Siggeir thinks that the brothers deserve to be tortured before they are killed, he agrees.

He then lets his shape-shifting mother turn into a wolf and devour one of the brothers each night. During that time, Signy tries various ruses but fails every time until only Sigmund remains. The ninth night, she has a servant smear honey on Sigmund's face and when the she-wolf arrives she starts licking the honey off Sigmund's face. She licks and sticks her tongue into Sigmund's mouth whereupon Sigmund bites her tongue off, killing her. Sigmund then hides in the forests of Gautland and Signy brings him everything he needs.

Sigmund escapes his bonds and lives underground in the wilderness on Siggeir's lands. Bent on revenge for their father's death, Signy sends her sons to Sigmund in the wilderness, one by one, to be tested. As each fails, Signy urges Sigmund to kill them. Out of despair, Signy comes to him in the guise of a Völva (sorceress) and conceives a child by him, Sinfjötli (the Fitela of Beowulf). Finally, Sinfjötli (born of the incest between Signy and Sigmund) passes the test.

Sigmund and his son/nephew, Sinfjötli, grow wealthy as outlaws. In their wanderings, they come upon men sleeping in cursed wolf skins. Upon killing the men and wearing the wolf skins, Sigmund and Sinfjötli are cursed to a type of lycanthropy. Eventually, Sinfjötli and Sigmund avenge the death of Volsung.

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