The Tale of Volund the Smith


Volund’s tale was one of the most widespread ones in the sagas. He was even known amongst the Anglo-Saxon people, who called him Weyland (also spelled Wayland, Weland and Watlende), the smithing God. His worship was brought to Britain with the Saxon settlers, but the exact connection to the Nordic version (whether it be direct extrapolation or syncretism) is unclear today.

According to the Volundarkvida and the Thidriks sagas, both form the XIII century, Volund was a prince of the elves, son of the giant Badi and grandson of a mermaid.

Wayland the Smith (Fredrik Sander 1893)

Volund had two brothers, Egil and Slagfior. He and his brothers were married to three Valkyries: Olrun, Hervor Alvitr, and Hlaoguor svanhvit.

After nine years of marriage, the Valkyries left the brothers to continue their work for the Allfather, as the choosers of the slain. Egil and Slagfior decided to follow the Valkyries to Asgard, leaving Volund to alone in Midgard.

Volund’s wife Oelun left him with a golden ring as a memento of her love and her duty. The ring was highly prized by Volund, perhaps even enchanted, and he soon honed his craftsmanship, making hundreds of copies of the flawless golden ring that had been given to him by his supernatural spouse.

Somehow I don't think it is this one...

Along with this hard work, Volund also learned his skills through apprenticeships. He was taught by the giant Mimir, although this must have been before Odin began to use the giant’s head as a counselor. He was then later sent to study under two dwarves who lived under the Kallava Mountain, the very same place where the Mightry Mjölnir was created. In a Short time, his skills increased to such a degree that he was known throughout many lands and was in great demand by royalty.

Mimir's head.

One such royal, who did not want him working for anyone else, was King Nidud of Sweden. King Nidud entranced Volund to work for him, promising his daughter’s hand in marriage and a part of his kingdom. When Volund arrived, the king betrayed and imprisoned him, cutting his hamstrings, so that he could not escape his captivity.

 The saga gets bloody when when the king’s sons came to Volund asking him to create mighty weapons.  The smith not only did so, but tested the weapons on the princes, killing them and crafting drinking bowls from their skulls which he sent as gifts to the king.

Volund also crafted gems from the boys’ eyes, which were given to the queen, and a brooch from their teeth, for the king’s daughter Bodvildr. After destroying the family of his captor, Volund crafted a pair of magical wings, so he could fly away despite his injured legs. During his escape, he flew over the king’s palace, taunting the monarch with the full knowledge of his terrible vengeance.

Besides the magical wings of flight, Volund crafted many other wondrous items, such as the sword Gramr, which means wrath. This was the powerful weapon the mighty Sigurd used to kill the dragon Fafnir, as it is told in the Volsunga Saga.

Sigurd and Fafnir.

Some say the sword was not only embedded with gems, but was emblazoned with a dragon, as if Volund knew of its future as a dragon slayer.

He also created the sword Beowulf wielded and his mail shirt, as Beowulf epic story reveals: “No need then to lament for long or lay out my body. If the battle takes me, send back this breast-webbing that Volund fashioned… Fate goes ever as fate must.”

This lines speak of the unshakable spirit of a true Warrior, for is a fundamental part of the Norse culture that the hour of his or her death is set by the wyrd sisters in the moment of the birth. Showing fear or worry about death is not only useless, but dishonorable.

Wyrd sisters under Yggdrasil.

Despite all his fame, he cause of Volund’s death is not recorded. Perhaps he was never a man, but a God of craftsmanship and smiths, and so he has just gone back to Asgard to stay with his Valkyrie wife.

His is a tale of awe and craft, overcoming obstacles in order to make priceless works. A true Warrior, worthy of Valhalla.

 

Sources

Simek, Rudolf. 1993. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. Translated by Angela Hall. ISBN-10 0859915131

Jesse Byock (2005) Snorri Sturluson, The Prose Edda. 1st. edition. London, England: Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN-13 978-0-140-44755-2

Anthony Faulkes (1995) Snorri Sturluson, Edda. 3rd. edition. London, England: Everyman J. M. Dent. ISBN-13 978-0-4608-7616-2


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