Sigmund

From Academic Kids

Template:VölsungThis article is about the mythological hero Sigmund, for other meanings see: Sigmund (disambiguation).

In Norse mythology, Sigmund was a hero whose story is told in Volsunga saga. He and his sister, Signy, are the children of Volsung. Sigmund is best known as the father of Sigurd the dragon-slayer, though Sigurd's tale has almost no connections to the Volsung tales.

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In the Volsunga Saga, Signy marries Siggeir, the king of Gautland (i.e. modern Götaland and Beowulf's Geatland. However, in some English translations he is described as the king of the Goths). Volsung and Sigmund were attending the wedding feast (which lasted for some time before and after the marriage), when Odin, in the guise of a beggar, plunged a sword into the living tree around which Volsung's halls was built. The disguised Odin announced that the man who could remove the sword would have it as a gift. Only Sigmund was able to free the sword.

Siggeir is smitten with envy and desire for the sword. Siggeir invited Sigmund, his father Völsung and Sigmund's nine brothers to a visit in Gautland to see the newlyweds three months later. When the Völsung clan had arrived they were attacked by the Gauts (Geats) and king Völsung was killed and his sons captured. Signy beseached her husband to spare her brothers and to put them in stocks instead of killing them. As Siggeir thought that the brothers deserved to be tortured before they were killed, he agreed.

He then let his shape-shifting mother turn into a wolf and each night devour one of the brothers, until only Sigmund remained. Signy had a servant smear honey on the face of Sigmund and when the she-wolf arrived she started licking the honey off Sigmund's face. She licked and stuck her tongue into Sigmund's mouth whereupon Sigmund bit her tongue off, killing her. Sigmund then hid in the forests of Gautland and Signy brought him everything he needed.

Sigmund escaped his bonds and lived underground in the wilderness on Siggeir's lands. While he was in hiding, Signy came to him in the guise of a Völva (sorceress) and conceived a child by him Sinfjötli (the Fitela of Beowulf). Bent on revenge for their father's death, Signy sent her sons to Sigmund in the wilderness, one by one, to be tested. As each failed, Signy urged Sigmund to kill them. Finally, Sinfjötli (born of the incest between Signy and Sigmund) passed the test.

Sigmund and his son/nephew, Sinfjötli, grew wealthy as outlaws. In their wanderings, they came upon men sleeping in cursed wolf skins. Upon killing the men and wearing the wolf skins, Sigmund and Sinfjötli were cursed to a type of lycanthropy. Eventually, Sinfjötli and Sigmund avenged the death of Volsung.

After the death of Signy, Sigmund and Sinfjötli went harrying together. Sigmund married a woman named Borghild and had two sons, one of them named Helgi. Helgi and Sinfjötli ruled a kingdom jointly. Helgi married a woman named Sigrun after killing her father. Sinfjötli later killed Sigrun's brother in battle and Sigrun avenged her brother by poisoning Sinfjötli.

Later, Sigmund married a woman named Hjördís. After a short time of peace, Sigmund's lands were attacked by King Lyngi. While in battle, Sigmund matched up against an old man (Odin in disguise). Odin shattered Sigmund's sword, and Sigmund fell at the hands of others. Dying, Sigmund told Hjördís that she was pregnant and that her son would one day make a great weapon out of the fragments of his sword. That son was Sigurd.

Sigmund's story may be based on older material than that found in the Sigurd story and it is more directly involved in matters of family descent and the conquest of lands. If there is a historical person behind the Sigmund stories, it is probably a chieftain from the time of the first great Germanic migration in the second and third centuries CE.

Analogs for Sigmund's pulling the sword from the tree can be found in other mythologies (notably in the Arthurian legends). Sigmund/Siegmund is also the name of Sigurd/Siegfried's father in other versions of the Sigurd story but without any of the details about his life or family that appear in Norse Volsung tales and poems. On the other hand, the Old English poem Beowulf includes includes "Sigmund the Wælsing" and his nephew "Fiteli" in a tale of dragon slaying told within the main story. The device of the broken sword that is recast was probably drawn mainly from the Volsung account by J.R.R. Tolkien for his The Lord of the Rings (though the motif also occurs in stories about Perceval).

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