5 Norse Viking Love Stories & Poems You May Not Know

Norse mythology is primarily known for it’s fantastical creatures such as giants, elves and dwarves and less so for its love stories.

However, there are quite a few such love stories within the Norse poetic texts and scriptures.

Some of these love stories were spread by Vikings during their conquests to new lands, where they became the basis for many fairy tales we may know today.

Below are five of these Norse Viking love stories, that are both heartwarming and comical, such as Njord and Skadi, Frey and Gerd, to the downright tragic and even macabre, such as the tale of Sigurd and Brunhild.

Njord and Skadi

Thjazi was a Norse giant and adversary of the Æsir, the Norse gods. 

One day, Thjazi succeeded in stealing away the goddess Idunna, the one who would give the Norse gods the apples of immortality and eternal youth at every banquet and feast.

Alarmed at their impending death and loss of youth, the Æsir recovered Idunna from the clutches of the giant Thjazi, killing him in the process.

However, Thjazi had a beautiful and noble daughter, unlike her father, called Skadi.

Outraged at her father’s death she marched to Asgard, the home of the gods, to enact vengeance upon her father’s killers.

However, Skadi was no match for the combined might of the gods, and besides, she was struck and bewitched by the beauty of Asgard and it’s godly inhabitants.

The Æsir too found her beauty striking and were unwilling to harm her. At the same time however, they knew they had brought the death of Skadi’s father and so were willing to atone for his killing.

As atonement, the Æsir offered Skadi a permanent abode in Asgard, and allowed her to choose a husband from their number, but to choose him by the feet only, for she would see no more than these in making her selection.

Her favorites were Balder and Njord, but she preferred Balder the most.

The lonesome gods then made a circle around her, covered up their bodies and faces in identical clothing and then spun Skadi twice and asked her to choose her husband from the feet alone.

Skadi greatly wished for Balder, but mistakenly chose the feet of her seconed favorite, Njord.

For a while, the newlyweds spent their time in Asgard, but Njord was a god who had duties in his care, him being the God of the Seas, Commerce and Wealth.

And so, after a time, Njord said he must go back to Noatun, because he had the care of all the ships on the sea, and the sailors needed his protection.

Skadi went with him; but the cry of thesea gulls, and the beating of the waves upon the beach, wearied her; and she longed for her home,the forests of Thrymheim, “Home of Noise”.

Njord went with her to her old home; but the howling wolves and the growling bears kept him awake at night:

Njord:

'I love not the mountains, I dwelt not long in them,
Nine nights only;
Sweeter is to me the song of the swan
Than the wild wolf's howl.'

To this Skadi replied:

'My sleep was troubled on the shore of the sea
By the screaming of sea-birds.
Every morning the sea-mew wakens me
Returning from the deep.'

Skadi and Njord were able to overcome their troubles however, and came to an arrangement: the two would spend nine days together in Thrymheim, and three days together in Noatun.

And so this arrangement held, until the end of times, the time of Ragnarok.

Frey and Gerd

Frey was the Norse god of fertility, peace, prosperity, and virility, and brought sunshine and fair weather, as well as  good harvest.

For this reason he was loved by many, including the other Æsir.

Frey was aware of the affections other carried for him, and so he thought he could away with some mischief.

One of his mischievous deeds was to sit on Odin’s throne, Hlidskjalf, which allowed him to see far and wide unto all the worlds of the Norse cosmos.

As a cosmic punishment for his misdeed however, Frey’s eyes were soon captured by Gerd, a most beautiful giantess.

Smitten with love and, Frey is unable to sleep and complete his duties.

The other gods soon become aware of this, and so ask Skirnir, Frey’s faithful servant, to learn what is the matter with him.

At first, Frey is reluctant to share the reasons for his pain, but does so extracting a promise from Skirnir: that Skirnir obtain the giantess Gerd as a wife for Frey.

Skirnir accepts, but demands as a reward Frey’s magical sword.

Skirnir then goes to Gerd, and asks for her to become Frey’s wife.

At first, Skirnir offers Gerd 11 golden apples that can provide immortality and eternal youth. Gerd refuses.

Then, Skirnir offers a gold ring that produces eight more golden rings every ninth night. Gerd refuses.

Skirnir then turns to threats.

Skirnir reminds Gerd that he carries a magical sword, capable of fighting by itself and will cut Gerd from head to toe if she does not comply. Gerd refuses, and says she will not be ruled over by any man that threatens her.

Skirnir then threatens to kill Gerd father, Gymir, and to use a magic wand on Gerd that can enslave her will to Skirnir himself. Skirnir then says Gerd will long for the taste of food and the company of any man, but that Skirnir will not allow it.

Finally, Gerd seems to yield, and gives a cup containing divine mead to Skirnir, and says that she will meet Frey after three nights at a tranquil forest grove called Barri.

Satisfied that his mission is complete, Skirnir now returns to Frey and tells him of his result.

Frey however complains that one night without Gerd is long enough, and that three is almost an eternity and sees no reason why he should wait that long.

Alas, Frey resigns himself to waiting.

Loki and Sygin

Loki had committed many misdeeds against his fellow gods, chief among which were the stealing of Idunna and her apples, as well as the murdering of Balder, the Æsir god most beloved by his own folk.

For too long had these crimes gone unpunished, and banquet where Loki had shamelessly slandered each and every one of the gods, the Æsir had reached a conclusion: Loki must be dealt with.

And so Loki fled to a home of his on top of a far off mountain, at all times warily observing to see if the were to appear to punish him.

The Æsir soon found Loki on top of his lonely mountain and descended upon him.

To escape, Loki turned himself into a salmon and released himself down a stream. However, he was quickly caught by Thor before he could escape, and was then turned back into his godly form.

The gods then brought forth to Loki his own two sons, Narfi and Vali. The Æsir then turned one of the brother into a wolf, and, as a wolf, had him kill and shread his brother to pieces.

The gods then took the intestines of Loki’s dead son and made magical bindings out of them, which they then used to tie down Loki’s hands and feet in a cave.

But the Æsir were not done yet.

The goddess Skadi placed a poisonous snake on a rock above Loki’s head. The snake would constantly drip poison from it’s fangs onto Loki’s head below, which would cause him unmeasurable pain.

However, Loki had a faithful wife, Sygin, and although she was not punished by the gods for the misdeeds of her husband, she had made it her choice to protect Loki as much as she could from his punishment.

Thus, Sygin forever stood by Loki’s side and held a bowl above his head, so as to catch every drop of venom from the snake.

Inevitably however the boll would fill up, and so Sygin had no choice but to briefly leave her husband’s side to empty the bowl again.

Whenever she would do so, a few drops of venom would drop on Loki’s head, and he would toss and turn with such violence from the pain that it would cause earthquakes in Midgard.

However, with each twisting and turning, Loki loosened up his magical chains and will eventually be able to escape.

And so, when Loki becomes free again, he will be the one to bring about Ragnarok, for the venom that caused bodily pain, now also brought venom in their hearts.

Signy and Sigmund

The King Volsung was a man of great deeds and noble spirit, and he had eleven children, ten sons and one daughter called Signy.

One day, Siggeir, a king among Goths, came to Volsung’s hall and offered aid in battle and great treasure, if only he could marry his daughter Signy.

Signy did not like this proposal, for she felt in her heart that the old, wrinkly Siggeir was not a man of wisdom and kindness.

Yet Signy was convinced by her father Volsung and nine of her brothers to accept Siggeir’s wedding proposal. Only the youngest and scrawniest of the brothers, Sigmund, had urged to refuse the proposal, but to no avail.

On the day of the wedding a great feast was held in honor of the marriage.

However, the banquet was interrupted by the sudden entry of an old man with one eye, wearing a blue-rimmed hat and gray cloak. Volsung suspected this man was Odin himself, but said nothing it.

The old man plunged a great sword into an ancient tree and said that only the worthy could it pull it out, and that as long as the wielder’s heart was true and pure, the sword would never fail him.

He then departed as swiftly as he entered.

The old Siggeir was the first to attempt to retrieve the sword, but failed in shame. Next came King Volsung himself followed by his nine oldest sons, and they too failed.

To the surprise of many, Sigmund was the one to recover the sword.

Later on, Siggeir asked Sigmund that he surrender the sword to him as a wedding gift. Sigmund publicly refused to do so, which greatly angered Siggeir, although he did not show his anger outwards.

Months later, King Volsung and all of his sons accepted an invitation by Siggeir to visit his great hall, even though Signy had warned her father Siggeir was planning to treacherously murder them.

Upon their arrival, King Volsung was outnumbered and killed in an ambush and all of his sons were captured.

Over the coming nights, one by one Singy’s brothers were killed by a she-wolf until only Sigmund remained.

However, Signy managed to save her brother and asked him to shelter away to regain his strength until the time was right to enact vengeance upon Siggeir.

And so, Sigmund hid away for many years.

One day, Signy met a sorceress and together they agreed to swap appearances.

Disguised as the sorceress, Signy wen’t to his brother’s home in the woods and slept him for three days and became pregnant with his child.

Many years later, a maid of Signy arrived at Sigmund’s abode and presented Signy’s child, now called Sinfjötli, and a demand from his sister that she protect him and cherish him until the time comes of revenge.

Sigmund did not know Sinfjötli was his own son, and so he was warry of him at first.

Over the years however Sinfjötli proved himself worthy in the eyes of Sigmund, who came to love and accept him as his own son, even if he believed Sinfjötli to be the son of the treacherous Siggeir.

Finally, when the time was right and both Sigmund and Sinfjötli were prepared, the two ambushed Siggeir in his own keep.

One by one, they killed Signy’s children with Siggeir, but when the time came to slay Siggeir himself, Signy asked that she be locked with him in a tower and burned together. 

Before her death however, Signy finally revealed to Sigmund that Sinfjötli was his own son.

Reluctantly, Sigmund and Sinfjötli complied, and so ended the lives of Signy and Sigger.

Later on, the two would return to their ancestral home and reclaim their rightful kingdom.

Sigurd, Brunhild, Gunnar and Gudrun

Brunhild was once a great Valkyrie, chosen and trained by the gods themselves.

However, Brunhild one day intervened in a combat duel between a robber king and a young man. She was only supposed to observe the outcome of the duel, but instead tilted it in favor of the young man.

As punishment, Odin turned her into a mortal woman again and demanded she also become a wife.

Brunhild’s only request of the All-father was that whoever is to become her husband must be the bravest of the brave.

Odin agreed, but said that she would have to wait long for him to arrive.

And so, Odin put Brunhild to sleep, covered in armor and placed her in a tower surrounded by walls of fire that only the bravest could overcome.

Sigurd awaken Brunhild

The great hero Sigurd, heir of the Volsungs, kills the mighty dragon Fafnir in one of his journeys.

After eating the dragon’s flesh, Sigurd learns the location of the dragon’s cursed treasure, who is supposed to kill any man that captures it, as well as the location of a tower containing a beautiful maid.

Sigurd recovers the treasure, and then journeys towards the tower and braves the fierce flames without harm.

He finds Brunhild and releases her from the clutches of the magical armor, and awakens her with a kiss.

Sigurd, struck by her beauty, and Brunhild, remembering the prophecy of Odin, agreed to marry at a later date in a land called Lymdale.

To remind them of the vow, Sigurd placed a ring from the dragon Fafnir’s treasure upon Brunhild’s finger. Sigurd however did not know that it was cursed, and so Brunhild’s fate was sealed.

The Princess Gudrun

The great people and kingdom of the Niblungs was ruled by the King Giaki and the sorceress Queen Grimhild, and together they had four children, among which was the prince Gunnar and princess Gudrun.

One day, Gudrun had a dream where a great, beautiful falcon arrived to her palace, crying at her, asking to be held but then dying besides her.

Gudrun did not know how to interpret such a dream.

A maiden of Gudrun claimed the dreamed likely meant that a noble man of great deeds would soon come to ask Gundrun’s hand in marriage.

However, the maid said the best person to interpret this dream was a woman named Brunhild in Lymdale, famed for her ability to interpret dreams.

Gudrun left for Lymdale to ask this Brunhild for advice.

Brunhild’s prophecy

After arriving in Lymdale, Brunhild helped Gudrun interpret her dream.

As the maiden before her, Brunhild said the falcon was a great man destined to be her husband, but that he would die besides her.

Brunhild however warned that such a fate was not the worst to befall a woman, and that joy and sorrow were but a part of life.

Sigurd arrives at Lymdale

After a while, Sigurd arrives at Lymdale and meets Brunhild.

The two do not yet share the bed, but await marriage.

For a time, the two spoke of the future they will have, of the kindgom they will rule, of the children they will raise, and of the life they will create together.

“O Brynhild, remember how I swore,

That the sun should die in the hecavens, and day come back no more,

Ere I forget thy wisdom, and thine heart of inmost love.”

Sigurd however had to go to war.

Sigurd drinks the potions

Sigurd spent many months among the Niblungs, and their royal rullers the king Giaki, the sorceress queen Grimhild, the fair Gunnar and the beautiful Gudrun.

Throughout that time, Sigurd vanquished many enemies of the Niblungs and gained adoration of both the people and the royal family, Gudrun most of all.

After the last of the enemies were defeated in battle a feast was held and Sigurd sang of the deeds of his people, the Volsungs.

In the commotion and revelry Queen Grimhild asked Sigurd for the honor of drinking from her cup.

Sigurd took her cup and drank, but he did not know the potion inside was magical of forgetting.

Sigurd’s joviality faded away, as did the light from his eyes. The hall and merrymaking went silent and all present knew the Sigurd of now was not the Sigurd they had fought with.

Gudrun alone was happy, and she told in his ears tales of deceit. That Sigurd’s old family was now dead, but that she, King Giaky and Queen Grimhild were now his family.

The magical potion worked its effect, and Sigurd forgets of Brunhild and his love for her.

As this was happening, back in distant Lymdale, Brunhild felt a touch of fear grasp her heart.

Odin’s curse was now back, and fierce flames now surrounded her castle.

Finally, Grimhild makes another potion, this one to make Sigurd fall in love in with Gudrun.

The potion has its intended effect, and Sigurd is now in love with Gudrun. Soon enough the two were married.

Gunnar obtains Brunhild

After his wedding to Gudrun, Sigurd takes an oath of brotherhood with Gunnar and his brothers, and Sigurd now participates in the councils that lead the Niblung people.

Soon after, King Giuki dies and Gunnar becomes the new King of the Niblungs.

A king without a wife Gunnar is, but his mother Queen Grimhild says that unless Gunnar marries a daughter of kings and queens, then the royal line of the Niblungs will end with Gunnar.

Gunnar knows of no such woman, but as fate would have it, Queen Grimhild knows of such a daughter of kings and queens called Brunhild, and that she is locked away under a magical spell somewhere in the land of Lymdale.

Grimhild urges Gunnar to find a way to marry this Brunhild.

Gunnar and Sigurd then traveled to Lymdale to recover the maiden Brunhild.

As fair and noble as Gunnar was, he was not brave enough to go through the flames, no matter how many times he tried.

And so, one of Gunnar’s brother cast a magic spell, and swapped the appearances of Gunnar with Sigurd, so that Sigurd now looked like Gunnar himself.

Disguised as Gunnar, Sigurd braved the flames once more and passed through to the other side and meets Brunhild once again, but no memories of her come back to him.

Brunhild was reluctant and distant towards Gunnar-Sigurd, but yields herself to him for three nights after being reminded of the vow that whoever dared cross the flames would marry Brunhild.

After the three nights, Brunhild gives Gunnar-Sigurd a ring, the very ring Sigurd had given her some time ago, as a marriage promise.

When Sigurd arrives from Brunhild’s keep, he changes appearance again with Gunnar, but keeps the ring Brunhild gave him.

Together they ride back to the realm of the Niblungs, and await for the arrival of Brunhild and her marriage to Gunnar.

Once home, Sigurd gives the ring from Brunhild to his wife, Gudrun.

The marriage of Brunhild and Gunnar

Brunhild later arrives in the realm of the Niblungs, and is surprised to learn that Sigurd is one of the princes of the realm, but says nothing of it.

Gunnar and Brunhild marry, but the marriage is not consumed.

For a time, all seems to be well, and Brunhild and Gudrun appear to outsiders as friends.

One day however, Brunhild offends Gudrun by claiming she is of superior standing, since she is the wife of the King of the Niblungs, the man who dared flames to win her over.

Gudrun is enraged, and then reveals the trickery Gunnar and Sigurd employed to recover Brunhild from her tower, and that it was actually Sigurd who saved, not Gunnar.

Brunhild did not believe her, until Gudrun showed Brunhild the ring on her finger, which Sigurd gave to her.

Brunhild demands the death of Sigurd

Enraged at the trickery, and that Sigurd had stolen her virginity, Brunhild demands from her husband, Gunnar, that she murder Sigurd, his own brother by blood oath. If not, Brunhild threathens to separate and leave Gunnar.

After much hesitation, Gunnar kills Sigurd in his sleep, for he dare not do it while awake.

Sigurd was laying near his Gudrun, and so the prophecy came true, since Sigurd dies in the arms of his wife.

The death of Brunhild

Satisfied and her vengeance sated, Brunhild now demanded her maid servants to bring her funeral gowns and her sword.

They knew why, but dared not disobey.

Sword in both hands, and dressed to die, Brunhild pierced herself and her final wish was that she be placed alongside Sigurd on his funeral pyre.


Resources:

  • The Mythology of All Races – Eddic by John Arnott MacCulloch, Louis Herbert Gray
  • The Norsemen Myths and Legends by Guerber Helene Adeline
  • Asgard and the Norse heroes by Katharine Boult
  • Old Norse stories by Sarah Powers Bradish
  • Teutonic Mythology by Viktor Rydberg & Anders Rasmus Bjorn
  • Teutonic Mythology by Jacob Grimm

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