The Tale of Volund the Smith


According to old sagas Volundarkvida and the Thidriks saga, both form the XIII century, Volund a prince of the elves - the alfar, was the son of the giant Badi and grandson of a mermaid. His legend was so widespread that it spread to the Anglo-Saxon people, who called him Weyland (also spelled Wayland, Weland and Watlende), the smithing god, that was brought with the Saxon settlers from Britain, though the exact connection to the Nordic version (whether it be direct extrapolation or syncretism) is unclear today. 

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. These choosers of the slain left the brothers after nine years of marriage, although the other two brothers chose to follow the Valkyries, leaving Volund to himself.

In the saga, Volund’s wife left him with a golden ring. With it, he 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 used the giant’s head as a counselor, and was then later sent to study under two dwarves who lived under Kallava Mountain, the very same place where the Mightry Mjölnir was created. Through all of this, his skills increased to such a degree that he was known throughout many lands and was even in 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 a 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 brothers, 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, regardless of his injured legs. During his escape, he flew over the king, taunting the monarch with the full knowledge of his of his terrible revenge.

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 Siguard used to kill the dragon Fafnir, as 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.

He also smithed the sword Beowulf wielded, as well as the mailed shirt the hero wore, being thusly told in the epic story: “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.”

That is the unshakable spirit of a true Viking, since it is a fundamental part of the viking culture that the hour of his or her death is set by the wyrd sisters in the moment of the birth, and showing fear or worry about it is not only useless, but dishonorable.

 

Wyrd sisters under Yggdrasil.

The cause of Volund’s death is not recorded. Perhaps he is the spirit in Volund’s Smithy or perhaps he lies in repose beneath a Scandinavian cairn. Some say he was never a man, but a god of craftsmen and smiths, and so he has just gone back to Asgard to stay with his Valkyrie wife. In any case, his is a tale of awe and craft, overcoming obstacles in order to make priceless works.


Leave a comment


Please note, comments must be approved before they are published