Norse Mythology

The Norse Hero Sagas: The Volsungs

What is the story of Sigmund?

King Sigmund was a direct descendant of the god Odin. Sigi, a son of Odin, had a son named Rerir, who became King of Hunaland. Rerir’s wife became preganant in a miraculous manner, and after a six-year pregnancy produced the hero Volsung. Cut from his mother’s dying body, Volsung was born already well grown. He became king and married Hljod, who produced many children, the oldest of whom were Sigmund and his twin sister, Signy. When a visiting king, Siggeir, asked for Signy’s hand in marriage, Volsung agreed, in spite of Signy’s unwillingness. Volsung had built a fine palace with a great tree named Barnstock at its axis. During Siggeir’s visit, a hooded old man with one eye—a favored disguise of the one-eyed god Odin—pressed a sword named Gram into the tree, promising it to anyone who could remove it. Of all the would-be heroes at the court of Volsung, only Sigmund was able to remove the sword, thus proving himself to be a true hero in the archetypal sense. This situation, of course, brings to mind the story of King Arthur and of his pulling the sword from the rock. When Siggeir demanded to buy the sword, Sigmund refused his offer, mortally offending the visiting king and beginning a feud, and eventually a war that would decimate the Volsungs. Sigmund and his sister Signy succeeded in avenging the slaughter of most of their family. Before his death, Sigmund married Hjordis, who gave birth to Sigurd. At Sigmund’s death, the sword Gram was broken into two pieces.


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