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In Norse mythology, Sigmundr (Old Norse: [ˈsiɣˌmundz̠]) is a hero whose story is told in the Vǫlsunga saga. He and his sister, Signý, are the children of Vǫlsungr and his wife Hljóð. Sigmundr is best known as the father of Sigurðr the dragon-slayer.

Vǫlsunga saga

Signý marries Siggeirr, the king of Gautland (modern Västergötland). Vǫlsungr and Sigmundr are attending the wedding feast (which lasted for some time before and after the marriage), when Óðinn, disguised as a beggar, plunges a sword (Gramr) into the living tree Barnstokkr ("offspring-trunk") around which Vǫlsungr's hall is built. The disguised Óðinn announces that the man who can remove the sword will have it as a gift. Only Sigmundr is able to free the sword from the tree.

Siggeirr is smitten with envy and desire for the sword. He tries to buy it but Sigmundr refuses. Siggeirr invites Sigmundr, his father Vǫlsungr and Sigmundr's nine brothers to visit him in Gautland to see the newlyweds three months later. When the Vǫlsungar arrive, they are attacked by the Gauts; King Vǫlsungr is killed and his sons captured. Signý beseeches her husband to spare her brothers and to put them in stocks instead of killing them. As Siggeirr thinks that the brothers deserve to be tortured before they are killed, he agrees.

He then lets his shapeshifting mother turn into a wolf and devour one of the brothers each night. During that time, Signý tries various ruses but fails every time until only Sigmundr remains. On the ninth night, she has a servant smear honey on Sigmundr's face and when the she-wolf arrives, she starts licking the honey off and sticks her tongue into Sigmundr's mouth, whereupon Sigmundr bites her tongue off, killing her. Sigmundr then escapes his bonds and hides in the forest.

Signý brings Sigmundr everything he needs. Bent on revenge for their father's death, she also sends her sons to him in the wilderness, one by one, to be tested. As each fails, she urges Sigmundr to kill them, until one day when he refuses to continue killing innocent children. Finally, in despair, she comes to him in the guise of a vǫlva and conceives a child by him, Sinfjǫtli (named Fitela in Beowulf). Sinfjǫtli, born of their incest, passes the test.

Sigmundr and his son/nephew, Sinfjǫtli, grow wealthy as outlaws. In their wanderings, they come upon men sleeping in cursed wolf skins. Upon killing the men and putting on the wolf skins, they are cursed with a type of lycanthropy. Eventually, they avenge the death of Vǫlsungr.

After Signý disappeared into the fire, Sigmundr and Sinfjǫtli go harrying together. Sigmundr marries a woman named Borghildr and has two sons, one of them named Helgi. Sinfjǫtli slays Borghildr's brother while vying for a woman they both want. Borghildr poisons Sinfjǫtli. Due to his son's death, Sigmundr becomes heartbroken and holds Sinfjǫtli's body in his arms - He wanders round the forest until the disguised Óðinn takes Sinfjǫtli by carries him away by a boat. After sending Sinfjǫtli to Óðinn, the King is driven by anger and divorces Borghildr by driving her away from his kingdom.

Later, Sigmundr marries a princess named Hjǫrdís. After a short time of frith, the Kingdom of Hunaland is attacked by King Eylimi of the Saxons. In battle, Sigmundr matches up against an old man who is Óðinn in disguise. Óðinn shatters Sigmundr's sword, and Sigmundr falls at the hands of others. Dying, he tells Hjǫrdís that she is pregnant and that her son will one day make a great weapon out of the fragments of his sword. That son was to be Sigurðr.

Relation to other Germanic heroes

Sigmundr/Siegmund is also the name of Sigurðr/Siegfried's father in other versions of the Sigurðr story, but without any of the details about his life or family that appear in Norse Vǫlsungr tales and poems. On the other hand, the Old English poem Beowulf includes Sigemund the Wælsing and his nephew Fitela in a tale of dragon slaying told within the main story. Herein the story of Sigemund is told to Beowulf, a warrior also from Gautland.


Parallels to Sigmundr's pulling the sword from the tree can be found in other mythologies (notably in the Arthurian legends). Also, Sinfjǫtli and Mordred share the characteristic of being nephew and son to the main characters. The gaining of mythical powers through a sword is also similar to the Norse god Freyr.



External links

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