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Völsunga Saga

Page 17

Chapter 30

Of the Slaying of Sigurd Fafnir's-bane

Thereafter Brynhild went out, and sat under her bower-wall, and had many words of wailing to say, and still she cried that all things were loathsome to her, both land and lordship alike, so she might not have Sigurd.

But therewith came Gunnar to her yet again, and Brynhild spake, "Thou shalt lose both realm and wealth, and thy life and me, for I shall fare home to my kin, and abide there in sorrow, unless thou slayest Sigurd and his son; never nourish thou a wolfcub."

Gunnar grew sick at heart thereat, and might nowise see what fearful thing lay beneath it all; he was bound to Sigurd by oath, and this way and that way swung the heart within him; but at the last he bethought him of the measureless shame if his wife went from him, and he said within himself, "Brynhild is better to me than all things else, and the fairest woman of all women, and I will lay down my life rather than lose the love of her." And herewith he called to him his brother and spake, --

"Trouble is heavy on me," and he tells him that he must needs slay Sigurd, for that he has failed him where in he trusted him; "so let us be lords of the gold and the realm withal."

Hogni answers, "Ill it behoves us to break our oaths with wrack and wrong, and withal great aid we have in him; no kings shall be as great as we, if so be the King of the Hun-folk may live; such another brother-in-law never may we get again; bethink thee how good it is to have such a brother-in-law, and such sons to our sister! But well I see how things stand, for this has Brynhild stirred thee up to, and surely shall her counsel drag us into huge shame and scathe."

Gunnar says, "Yet shall it be brought about: and, lo, a rede thereto; -- let us egg on our brother Guttorm to the deed; he is young, and of little knowledge, and is clean out of all the oaths moreover."

"Ah, set about in ill wise," says Hogni, "and though indeed it may well be compassed, a due reward shall we gain for the betrayal of such a man as is Sigurd."

Gunnar says, "Sigurd shall die, or I shall die."

And therewith he bids Brynhild arise and be glad at heart: so she arose, and still ever she said that Gunnar should come no more into her bed till the deed was done.

So the brothers fall to talk, and Gunnar says that it is a deed well worthy of death, that taking of Brynhild's maidenhead; "So come now, let us prick on Guttorm to do the deed."

Therewith they call him to them, and offer him gold and great dominion, as they well have might to do. Yea, and they took a certain worm and somewhat of wolf's flesh and let seethe them together, and gave him to eat of the same, even as the singer sings --

     "Fish of the wild-wood,
     Worm smooth crawling,
     With wolf-meat mingled,
     They minced for Guttorm;
     Then in the beaker,
     In the wine his mouth knew,
     They set it, still doing
     More deeds of wizards.
Wherefore with the eating of this meat he grew so wild and eager, and with all things about him, and with the heavy words of Grimhild, that he gave his word to do the deed; and mighty honour they promised him in reward thereof.

But of these evil wiles naught at all knew Sigurd, for he might not deal with his shapen fate, nor the measure of his life-days, neither deemed he that he was worthy such things at their hands.

So Guttorm went in to Sigurd the next morning as he lay upon his bed, yet durst he not do aught against him, but shrank back out again; yea, and even so he fared a second time, for so bright and eager were the eyes of Sigurd that few durst look upon him. But the third time he went in, and there lay Sigurd asleep; then Guttorm drew his sword and thrust Sigurd through in such wise that the sword point smote into the bed beneath him; then Sigurd awoke with that wound, and Guttorm gat him unto the door; but therewith Sigurd caught up the sword Gram, and cast it after him, and it smote him on the back, and struck him asunder in the midst, so that the feet of him fell one way, and the head and hands back into the chamber.

Now Gudrun lay asleep on Sigurd's bosom, but she woke up unto woe that may not be told of, all swimming in the blood of him, and in such wise did she bewail her with weeping and words of sorrow, that Sigurd rose up on the bolster, and spake.

"Weep not," said he, "for thy brothers live for thy delight; but a young son have I, too young to be ware of his foes; and an ill turn have these played against their own fortune; for never will they get a mightier brother-in-law to ride abroad with them; nay, nor a better son to their sister, than this one, if he may grow to man's estate. Lo, now is that come to pass which was foretold me long ago, but from mine eyes has it been hidden, for none may fight against his fate and prevail. Behold this has Brynhild brought to pass, even she who loves me before all men; but this may I swear, that never have I wrought ill to Gunnar, but rather have ever held fast to my oath with him, nor was I ever too much a friend to his wife. And now if I had been forewarned, and had been afoot with my weapons, then should many a man have lost his life or ever I had fallen, and all those brethren should have been slain, and a harder work would the slaying of me have been than the slaying of the mightiest bull or the mightiest boar of the wild-wood."

And even therewithal life left the King; but Gudrun moaned and drew a weary breath, and Brynhild heard it and laughed when she heard her moaning.

Then said Gunnar, "Thou laughest not because thy heart-roots are gladdened, or else why doth thy visage wax so wan? Sure an evil creature thou art; most like thou art nigh to thy death! Lo now, how meet would it be for thee to behold thy brother Atli slain before thine eyes, and that thou shouldst stand over him dead; whereas we must needs now stand over our brother-in-law in such a case our brother-in-law and our brother's bane."

She answered, "None need mock at the measure of slaughter being unfulfilled; yet heedeth not Atli your wrath or your threats; yea, he shall live longer than ye, and be a mightier man."

Hogni spake and said, "Now hath come to pass the soothsaying of Brynhild; an ill work not to be atoned for."

And Gudrun said, "My kinsmen have slain my husband; but ye, when ye next ride to the war and are come into the battle, then shall ye look about and see that Sigurd is neither on the right hand nor the left, and ye shall know that he was your good-hap and your strength; and if he had lived and had sons, then should ye have been strengthened by his offspring and his kin."

Chapter 31

Of the Lamentation of Gudrun over
Sigurd's dead, as it is told in ancient Songs (1)

     Gudrun of old days
     Drew near to dying
     As she sat in sorrow
     Over Sigurd;
     Yet she sighed not
     Nor smote hand on hand,
     Nor wailed she aught
     As other women.

Then went earls to her. Full of all wisdom, Fain help to deal To her dreadful heart: Hushed was Gudrun Of wail, or greeting, But with a heavy woe Was her heart a-breaking.

Bright and fair Sat the great earls' brides, Gold arrayed Before Gudrun; Each told the tale Of her great trouble, The bitterest bale She erst abode.

Then spake Giaflaug, Giuki's sister: "Lo upon earth I live most loveless Who of five mates Must see the ending, Of daughters twain And three sisters, Of brethren eight, And abide behind lonely."

Naught gat Gudrun Of wail and greeting, So heavy was she For her dead husband, So dreadful-hearted For the King laid dead there.

Then spake Herborg Queen of Hunland -- "Crueller tale Have I to tell of, Of my seven sons Down in the Southlands, And the eighth man, my mate, Felled in the death-mead.

"Father and mother, And four brothers, On the wide sea The winds and death played with; The billows beat On the bulwark boards.

"Alone must I sing o'er them, Alone must I array them, Alone must my hands deal with Their departing; And all this was In one season's wearing, And none was left For love or solace.

"Then was I bound A prey of the battle, When that same season Wore to its ending; As a tiring may Must I bind the shoon Of the duke's high dame, Every day at dawning.

"From her jealous hate Gat I heavy mocking, Cruel lashes She laid upon me, Never met I Better master Or mistress worser In all the wide world."

Naught gat Gudrun Of wail or greeting, So heavy was she For her dead husband, So dreadful-hearted For the King laid dead there.

Then spake Gullrond, Giuki's daughter -- "O foster-mother, Wise as thou mayst be, Naught canst thou better The young wife's bale." And she bade uncover The dead King's corpse.

She swept the sheet Away from Sigurd, And turned his cheek Towards his wife's knees -- "Look on thy loved one Lay lips to his lips, E'en as thou wert clinging To thy king alive yet!"

Once looked Gudrun -- One look only, And saw her lord's locks Lying all bloody, The great man's eyes Glazed and deadly, And his heart's bulwark Broken by sword-edge.

Back then sank Gudrun, Back on the bolster, Loosed was her head array, Red did her cheeks grow, And the rain-drops ran Down over her knees.

Then wept Gudrun, Giuki's daughter, So that the tears flowed Through the pillow; As the geese withal That were in the homefield, The fair fowls the may owned, Fell a-screaming.

Then spake Gullrond, Giuki's daughter -- "Surely knew I No love like your love Among all men, On the mould abiding; Naught wouldst thou joy in Without or within doors, O my sister, Save beside Sigurd."

Then spake Gudrun, Giuki's daughter -- "Such was my Sigurd Among the sons of Giuki, As is the king leek O'er the low grass waxing, Or a bright stone Strung on band, Or a pearl of price On a prince's brow.

"Once was I counted By the king's warriors Higher than any Of Herjan's mays; Now am I as little As the leaf may be, Amid wind-swept wood Now when dead he lieth.

I miss from my seat, I miss from my bed, My darling of sweet speech. Wrought the sons of Giuki, Wrought the sons of Giuki, This sore sorrow, Yea, for their sister, Most sore sorrow.

"So may your lands Lie waste on all sides, As ye have broken Your bounden oaths! Ne'er shalt thou, Gunnar, The gold have joy of; The dear-bought rings Shall drag thee to death, Whereon thou swarest Oath unto Sigurd.

Ah, in the days by-gone Great mirth in the homefield When my Sigurd Set saddle on Grani, And they went their ways For the wooing of Brynhild! An ill day, an ill woman, And most ill hap!"

Then spake Brynhild, Budli's daughter -- "May the woman lack Both love and children, Who gained greeting For thee, O Gudrun! Who gave thee this morning Many words!"

Then spake Gullrond, Giuki's daughter -- "Hold peace of such words Thou hated of all folk! The bane of brave men Hast thou been ever, All waves of ill Wash over thy mind, To seven great kings Hast thou been a sore sorrow, And the death of good will To wives and women."

Then spake Brynhild, Budli's daughter -- "None but Atli Brought bale upon us, My very brother Born of Budli.

When we saw in the hall Of the Hunnish people The gold a-gleaming On the kingly Giukings; I have paid for that faring Oft and Full, And for the sight That then I saw."

By a pillar she stood And strained its wood to her; From the eyes of Brynhild, Budli's daughter, Flashed out fire, And she snorted forth venom, As the sore wounds she gazed on Of the dead-slain Sigurd.


(1) This chapter is the Eddaic poem, called the first Lay of Gudrun, inserted here by the translators. Back

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