The Story of Signy and Sigurd (from Norse Mythology)

Story of Signy and Sigmund

Signy was the daughter of Volsung and the sister of Sigmund. Her husband slew Volsung by treachery and captured his sons. One by one he chained them at night to where the wolves would find them and devour them.

When the last, who was Sigmund, was brought out and chained, Signy had devised a way to save him. She freed him and the two took a vow to avenge their father and brothers.

Signy determined that Sigmund should have one of their own blood to help him and she visited him in disguise and spent three nights with him. He never knew who she was.

When the boy who was born of their union was of an age to leave her, she sent him to Sigmund and the two lived together until the lad- his name was Sinfiotli-was grown to manhood.

All this time Signy was living with her husband, bearing him children, showing him nothing of the one burning desire in her heart, to take vengeance upon him. The day for it came at last.

Sigmund and Sinfiotli surprised the household. They killed Signy’s other children; they shut her husband in the house and set fire to it. Signy watched them with never a word. When all was done she told them that they had gloriously avenged the dead, and with that she entered the burning dwelling and died there.

Sigmund and his Sinfiotli after burning down Signy’s home

Through the years while she had waited she had planned when she killed her husband to die with him.

Story of Sigurd and Brynhild

Brynhild, a Valkyrie, has disobeyed Odin and is punished by being put to sleep until some man shall wake her. She begs that he who comes to her shall be one whose heart knows no fear, and Odin surrounds her couch with Haming fire which onlya hero would brave.

Sigurd, the son of Sigmund, does the deed. He forces his horse through the fames and wakens Brymhild, who gives herself to him joyfully because he has proved his valor in reaching her. Some days later he leaves her in the same fire ringed place.

Sigurd goes to the home of the Giukungs where he swears brotherhood with the king, Gunnar.

Griemhild, Cunnar’s mother, wants Sigurd for her daughter Gudrun, and gives him a magic potion which makes him forget Brynhild.

Sigurd marries Gudrun; then, assuming through Griemhild’s magical power the appearance of Gunnar, he rides through the flames again to win Brynhild for Gunnar, who is not hero enough to do this himself. Sigurd spends three nights there with her, but he places his sword between them in the bed.

Brynhild goes with him to the Giukungs, where Sigurd takes his own shape again, but without Brynhild’s knowledge. She marries Gunnar, believing that Sigurd was faithless to her and that Gunnar had ridden through the flames for her.

In a quarrel with Gudrun she learns the truth and she plans her revenge. She tells Gunnar that Sigurd broke his oath to him, that he really possessed her those three nights when he declared that his sword lay between them, and that unless Gunnar kills Sigurd she will leave him.

Gunnar himself cannot kill Sigurd because of the oath of brotherhood he has sworn, but he persuades his younger brother to slay Sigurd in his sleep, and Gudrun wakes to find her husband’s blood flowing over her.

Then Brynhild laughed, only once, with all her heart, when she heard the wail of Gudrun.

But although, or because, she brought about his death, she will not live when Sigurd is dead. She says to her husband:

One alone of all I loved.
I never had a changing heart.

She tells him that Sigurd had not been false to his oath when he rode through the fiery ring to win her for Gunnar.

In one bed together we slept
As if he had been my brother.
Ever with grief and all too long
Are men and women born in the world

She kills herself, praying that her body shall be laid on the funeral pyre with Sigurd’s.

Beside his body Gudrun sits in silence. She cannot speak; she cannot weep. They fear that her heart will break unless she can find relief, and one by one the women tell her of their own grief, the bitterest pain each had ever borne.

Husband, daughters, sisters, brothers,-one says,- all were taken from me, and still I live.

Yet for her grief Gudrun could not weep. So hard was her heart by the hero’s body.

My seven sons fell in the southern land, another says, and my husband too, all eight in battle. I decked with my own
hands the bodies for the grave. One half-year brought me this to bear. And no one came to comfort me.

Yet for her grief Gudrun could not weep. So hard was her heart by the hero’s body.

Then one wiser than the rest lifts the shroud from the dead. She laid his well-loved head on the knees of his wife.

“Look on him thou loved and press thy lips to his as it he still were living.”

Only once did Gudrun look.
She saw his hair all clotted with blood,
His blinded eyes that had been so bright,
Then she bent and bowed her head,
And her tears ran down like drops of rain.

Such are the early Norse stories. Man is born to sorrow as the sparks fly upward. To live is to suffer and the only solution of the problem of life is to suffer with courage.

Sigurd, on his way to Brynhild the first time, meets a wise man and asks him what his fate shall be:

Hide nothing from me however hard.

The wise man answers:

Thou knowest that I will not lie.
Never shalt thou be stained by baseness.
Yet a day of doom shall come upon thee,
A day of wrath and a day of anguish.
But ever remember, ruler of men,
That fortune lies in the hero’s life.
And a nobler man shall never live
Beneath the sun than Sigurd.

Atlas Mythica

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