THE STORY OF SIGMUND AND SIGNY
E called to Grani, his proud horse; he stood up on a
mound in the Heath and he sent forth a great shout.
And Grani heard in the cave where Regin had left him
and he came galloping to Sigurd with flowing mane and
eyes flashing fire.
He mounted Grani and he rode to Fafnir's cave. When he
went into the place where the Dragon was wont to lie he
saw a door of iron before him. With Gram, his
sword, he hewed through the iron, and with his strong
hands he pulled the door back. Then, before him he
saws the treasure the Dragon guarded, masses of gold
and heaps of shining jewels.
But as he looked on the hoard Sigurd felt some shadow
of the evil that lay over it all This was the hoard
that in the far-off days the River-Maidens watched over
as it lay deep under the flowing water. Then Andvari
the Dwarf forced the River-Maidens to give it to him.
And Loki had taken it from Andvari, letting loose as he
did Gulveig the Witch who had such evil power over the
Gods. For the sake of the hoard Fafnir had slain
Hreidmar, his father, and Regin had plotted death
against Fafnir, his brother.
Not all this history did Sigurd know. But a shadow of
its evil touched his spirit as he stood there before
the gleaming and glittering heap. He would take all of
it away, but not now. The tale that the birds told was
in his mind, and the green of the forest was more to
him than the glitter of the treasure heap. He would
come back with chests and load it up and carry it to
King Alv's hall. But first he would take such things
as he himself might wear.
He found a helmet of gold and he put it on his head.
He found a great arm-ring and he put it around his arm.
On the top of the arm-ring there was a small
finger-ring with a rune graved upon it. Sigurd put it
on his finger. And this was the ring that Andvari the
Dwarf had put the curse upon when Loki had taken the
hoard from him
 He knew that no one would cross the Heath and come to
Fafnir's lair, so he did not fear to leave the treasure
unguarded. He mounted Grani, his proud horse, and rode
towards the forest. He would seek the House of Flame
where she lay sleeping, the maiden who was the wisest
and the bravest and the most beautiful in the world
With his golden helmet shining above his golden hair
Sigurd rode on.
S he rode towards the forest he thought of Sigmund,
his father, whose slaying he had avenged, and he
thought of Sigmund's father, Volsung, and of the grim
deeds that the Volsungs had suffered and wrought.
Rerir, the son of Sigi who was the son of Odin, was the
father of Volsung. And Volsung when he was in his
first manhood had guilt his hall around a mighty tree.
Its branches went up to the roof and made the beams of
the house and its great trunk was the centre of the
hall. "The Branstock" the tree was called, and
Volsung's hall was named "The Hall of the Brankstock."
Many children had Volsung, eleven sons and one
daughter. Strong were all his sons and good fighters,
and Volsung of the Hall of the Branstock was a mighty
It was through Signy, the daughter of the house, that a
feud and a deadly battle was brought to Volsung and his
sons. She was a wise and a fair maiden and her fame
went through all the lands. Now, one day Volsung
received a message from a
 King asking for the hand of
Signy in marriage. And Volsung who knew of this King
through report of his battles sent a message to him
saying that he would be welcome to the Hall of the
So King Siggeir came with his men. But when the
Volsungs looked into his face they liked it not. And
Signy shrank away, saying, "This King is evil of heart
and false of word."
Volsung and his eleven sons took counsel together.
Siggeir had a great force of men with him, and if they
refused to give her he could slay them all and harry
their kingdom Besides they had pledged themselves to
give Signy when they had sent him a message of welcome.
Long counsel they had together. And ten of Signy's
brother said, "Let Signy wed this King. He is not as
evil as he seems in her mind." Ten brothers said it.
But one spoke out , saying, "We will not give our
sister to this evil King. Rather let us all go down
fighting with the Hall of the Branstock flaming above
It was Sigmund, the youngest of the Volsungs, who said
But Signy's father said: "We know nought of evil of
King Siggeir. Also our word is given to him. Let him
feast with us this night in the Hall of the Branstock
and let Signy go from us with him as his wife." Then
they looked to her and they saw Signy's face and it was
white and stern. "Let it be as ye have said, my father
and my brothers," she said. "I will wed King Siggeir
and go with him overseas." So she said aloud But
Sigmund heard her say to herself, "It is woe for the
 A feast was made and King Siggeir and his men came to
the Hall of the Branstock. Fires were lighted and
tables were spread, and the great horns of mead went
around the guests. In the middle of the feasting a
stranger entered the Hall. He was taller than the
tallest there, and his bearing made all do him
reverence. One offered him a horn of mead and he drank
it. The, from under the blue cloak that he wore, he
drew a sword that made the brightness of the Hall more
He went to the tree that the Hall was built around, to
the Branstock, and he thrust the sword into it. All
the company were hushed. Then they heard the voice of
the stranger, a voice that was like the trumpet's call:
"The sword is for the hand that can draw it out of the
Brankstock." Then he went out of the Hall.
All looked to where the sword was placed and saw a
hand's breadth of wonderful brightness This one and
that one would have laid hands on the hilt, only
Volsung's voice bade them stand still. "It is meet,"
he said, "that our guest and our son-in-law, King
Siggeir, should be the first to put hands on its hilt
and try to draw the sword of the stranger out of the
King Siggeir went to the tree and laid his hands on the
broad hilt. He strove hard to draw out the sword, but
all his might could not move it. As he strained
himself to draw it and failed, a dark look of anger
came into his face.
Then others tried to draw it, the captains who were
with King Siggeir, and they, too, failed to move the
blade. Then Volsung
 tried and Volsung could not move it.
One after the other, his eleven sons strained to draw
out the stranger's sword. At last it came to the turn
of the youngest, to Sigmund, to try. And when Sigmund
laid his hand on the broad hilt and drew it, behold!
The sword came with his hand, and once again the Hall
was brightened with its marvelous brightness.
It was a wondrous sword, a sword made out of better
metal and by smiths more cunning than any known. All
envied Sigmund that he had won for himself that
King Siggeir looked on it with greedy eyes. "I will
give thee its weight in gold for that sword, good
brother," he said.
But Sigmund said to him proudly: "If the sword was for
thy hand thou shouldst have won it. The sword was not
for thine, but for a Volsung's hand."
And Signy, looking at King Siggeir, saw a look of
deeper evil come into his face. She knew that hatred
for all the Volsung race was in his heart.
But at the end of the feast she was to wed to King
Siggeir, and the next day she left the Hall of the
Branstock and went with him down to where his great
painted ship was drawn up on the beach. And when they
were parting from her, her father and her brothers,
King Siggeir invited them to come to his country, as
friends visiting friends and kinsmen visiting kinsmen,
and look on Signy again. And he stood on the beach and
would not go on board his ship until each and all of
the Volsungs gave their word that they would visit
Signy and him on his own land. "And when
 thou comest,"
he said to Sigmund, "be sure thou dost bring with thee
the mighty sword that thou didst win."
All this, was thought of by Sigurd, the son of Sigmund,
as he rode towards the fringe of the forest.
HE time came for Volsung and his sons to redeem the
promise they made to King Siggeir. They made ready
their ship and they sailed from the land where stood
the Hall of the Branstock. And they landed on the
coast of King Siggeir's country, and they drew their
ship up on the beach and they made their camp there,
intending to come to the King's Hall in the broad light
of the day.
But in the half light of the dawn one came to the
Volsung ship. A cloak and hood covered the figure, but
Sigmund, who was the watcher, knew who it was.
"Signy!" he said, and Signy asked that her father and
her brothers be awakened until she would speak to them
of a treason that was brewed against them.
"King Siggeir had made ready a great army against your
coming," she told them. "He hates the Volsungs, the
branch as well as the root, and it is his plan to fall
upon you, my father and my brothers with his great army
and slay you all. And he would possess himself of
Gram, Sigmund's wonder-sword. Therefore, I say to you,
O Volsungs, draw your ship into the sea and said from
the land where such treachery can be."
But Volsung, her father, would not listen. "The
Volsungs do not depart like broken men from a land they
 their ship to," he said. "We gave, each
and all, the word that we would visit King Siggeir and
visit him we will. And if he is a dastard and would
fall upon us, why we are the unbeaten Volsungs, and we
will fight against him and his army and slay him, and
bear you back with us to the Hall of the Branstock.
The day widens now, and we shall go to the Hall"
Signy would have spoken of the great army King Siggeir
had gathered, but she knew that the Volsungs never
harkened to talk of odds. She spoke no more, but bowed
her head and went back to King Siggeir's hall.
Siggeir knew that Signy had been to warn her father and
her brothers. He called the men he had gathered and he
posted them cunningly in the way the Volsungs would
come Then he sent one to ship with a message of
As they left their ship the army of King Siggeir fell
upon the Volsungs and their followers Very fierce was
the battle that was waged on the beach, and many and
many a one of King Siggeir's fierce fighters went down
before the fearless ones that made Volsung's company.
But at last Volsung himself was slain and his eleven
sons were taken captive. And Gram, his mighty sword,
was taken out of Sigmund's hands.
They were brought before King Siggeir in his hall, the
eleven Volsung princes. Siggeir laughed to see them
before him. "Ye are not in the Hall of the Branstock
now, to dishonor me with black looks and scornful
words," he said," and a harder task will be given you
than that of drawing a sword out of a
tree-  trunk. Before set of sun I will see you hewn to pieces with
Then Signy who was there stood up with her white face
and her wide eyes, and she said: "I pray not for
longer life for my brothers, for well I know that my
prayers would avail them nought. But dost thou not
heed the proverb, Siggeir—'Sweet to the eye as long
as they eye can see'?"
And Siggeir laughed his evil laugh when he heard her.
"Aye, my Queen," he said, "sweet to the eye as long as
the eye may see their torments. They shall not die at
once nor all together. I will let them see each other
So Siggeir gave a new order to his dastard troops. The
order was that the eleven brothers should be taken into
the depths of the forest and chained to great beams and
left there. This was done with the eleven sons of
The next day one who had watched and who was faithful
to Signy came, and Signy said to him: "What has
befallen my brothers?"
And the watcher said: "A great wolf came to where the
chained men are, and fell upon the first of them and
When Signy heard this no tears came from her eyes, but
that which was hard around her heart became harder.
She said, "Go again, and watch what befalls."
And the watcher came the second time and said: "The
second of your brothers has been devoured by the wolf."
Signy shed no tears this time either, and again that
which was hard around her heart became harder.
 And every day the watcher came and he told her what had
befallen her brothers. And it came to the time when
but one of her brothers was left alive, Sigmund, the
Then said Signy: Not without device are we left at the
end. I have thought of what is to be done. Take a pot
of honey to where he is chained and smear Sigmund's
face with the honey."
The watcher did as Signy bade him.
Again the great wolf came along the forest-ways to
where Sigmund was chained. When she snuffed over his
she found the honey upon his face. She put down her
tongue to lick over his face. Then, with his strong
teeth Sigmund seized the tongue of the wolf. She
fought and she struggled with all her might, but
Sigmund did not let go of her tongue. The struggle
with the beast broke the beam to which he was chained
Then Sigmund seized the wolf with his hands and tore
her jaws apart.
The watcher saw this happening and told of it to Signy.
A fierce joy went through her, and she said: "One of
the Volsungs lives, and vengeance will be wrought upon
King Siggeir and upon his house."
Still the watcher stayed in the ways of the forest, and
he marked where Sigmund built for himself a hidden hut.
Often he bore tokens from Signy to Sigmund. Sigmund
took to the ways of the hunger and the outlaw, but he
did not forsake the forest And King Siggeir knew not
that one of the Volsungs lived and was near him.