The Northern Way


There was a king in Sweden named Nithuth. He had two sons and one daughter; her name was Bothvild. There were three brothers, sons of a king of the Finns; one was called Slagfith, another Egil, the third Volund. They went on snowshoes and hunted wild beasts. They came into Ulfdalir and there they built themselves a house; there was a lake there which is called Ulfsjar. Early one morning they found the shore of the lake three women, who were spinning flax. Near them were their swan-garments, for they were Valkyries. Two of them were daughters of King Hlothver, Hlathguth the Swan-White and Hervor the All-Wise, and the third was Olrun, daughter of Kjar from Valland. There did they bring home to their hall with them. Egil took Olrun, and Slagfith Swan-White, and Volund All-Wise. There they dwelt seven winters; but then they flew away to find battles, and came back no more. Then Egil set forth on his snowshoes to follow Olrun, and Slagfith followed Swan-White, but Volund stayed in Ulfdalir. He was a most skillful man, as men know from old tales. King Nithuth had him taken by force, as the poem tells here.

1. Maids from the south        through Myrkwood flew,
Fair and young,         their fate to follow;
On the shore of the sea        to rest them they sat,
The maids of the south,        and flax they spun.

2. -lacuna-
Hlathguth and Hervor,         Hlothver's chidren,
And Olrun the Wise                Kjar's daughter was.

3. -lacuna-
One in her arms        took Egil then
To her white bosom,         the woman fair.

4. Swan-White the second,-         swan-feathers she wore,
-lacuna- ed em /then to her breast Slagfith embraced/
And her arms the third        of the sisters threw
Next round Volund's         neck so white.

5. There did they sit        for seven winters,
In the eighth at last                came their longing again,
(And in the ninth        did need divide them)
The maidens yearned        for the murky wood,
The fair young maids,        their fate to follow.

6. Volund home                from his hunting came,
From a weary way,                the weather-wise bowman,
Slagfith and Egil        the hall found empty,
Out and in went they,        everywhere seeking.

7. East fared Egil        after Olrun,
And Slagfith south                to seek for Swan-White;
Volund alone                in Ulfdalir lay
-lacuna- ed em /Till back the maiden bright should come/

8. Red gold he fashioned        with fairest gems,
And rings he strung                 on ropes of bast;
So for his wife        he waited long,
If the fair one home                might come to him.

9. This Nithuth learned,        the lord of Njars,
That Volund alone        in Ulfdalir lay;
By night went his men,        their mail-coats were studded,
Their shields in the waning                moonlight shone.

10. From their saddles the gable        wall they sought;
And in they went        at the end of the hall;
Rings they saw there        on ropes of bast,
Seven hundred        the hero had.

11. Off they took them,                but all they left
Save one alone        which they bore away.

12. Volund home                from his hunting came,
From a weary way,                 the weather-wise bowman;
A brown bear's flesh        would he roast with fire;
Soon the wood so dry        was burning well,
(The wind-dried wood        that Volund's was).

13. On the bearskin he rested,                and counted the rings,
The master of elves,        but one he missed;
That Hlothver's daughter        had it he thought,
And the all-wise maid        had come one more.

14. So long he sat        that he fell asleep,
His waking empty        of gladness was;
Heavy chains        he saw on his hands,
And fetters bound        his feet together.

Volund spake:
14. "What men are they                who thus have laid
Ropes of bast        to bind me now?"

15. The Nithuth called,         the lord of Njars;
"How gottest thou, Volund,                greatest of elves,
These treasures of ours        in Ulfdalir?"

Volund spake:
16. "The gold was not        on Grani's way,
Far methinks, is our realm                from the hills of the Rhine;
I mind me that treasures        more we had
When happy together        at home we were."

17. Without stood the wife        of Nithuth wise,
And in she came        from the end of the hall;
On the floor she stood,        and softly spoke:
"Not kind does he look        who comes from the wood."

King Nithuth gave to his daughter Bothvild the gold ring that he had taken from the bast rope in Volund's house, and he himself wore the sword that Volund had had. The queen spake:

18. "The glow of his eyes        is like gleaming snakes,
His teeth he gnashes        if now is shown
The sword, or Bothvild's         ring he sees;
Let them straightway cut        his sinews of strength,
And set him then        in Saevarstath."

      So it was done: the sinews in his knee-joints were cut, and he was set in an island which was near the mainland, and was called Saevarstath. There he smithied for the king all kinds of precious things. No man dared to go to him, save only the king himself. Volund spake:

19. "At Nithuth's girdle                gleams the sword
That I sharpened keen        with cunningest craft,
(And hardened the steel        with highest skill;)
The bright blade far                forever is borne,
(Nor back shall I see it        borne to my smithy;)
Now Bothvild gets                the golden ring
(That was once my bride's,-        ne'er well shall it be.")

20. He sat, nor slept,        and smote with his hammer,
Fast for Nithuth        wonders he fashioned;
Two boys did go        in his door to gaze,
Nithuth's sons,        into Saevarstath.

21. They came to the chest,        and they craved the keys,
The evil was open        when in they looked;
To the boys it seemed        that gems they saw,
Gold in plenty        and precious stones.

Volund spake:
22. "Come ye alone,        the next day come,
Gold to you both        shall then be given;
Tell not the maids        or the men of the hall,
To no one say        that me you have sought."

23. -lacuna- questionable gap
Early did brother        to brother call:
"Swift let us go        the rings to see."

24. They came to the chest,         and they craved the keys,
The evil was open        when in they looked;
He smote off their heads,         and their feet he hid
Under the sooty        straps of the bellows.

25. Their skulls, once hid        by their hair, he took,
Set them in silver        and sent them to Nithuth;
Gems full fair                from their eyes he fashioned,
To Nithuth's wife        so wise he gave them.

26. And from the teeth        of the twain he wrought
A brooch for the breast,         to Bothvild he sent it;

27. Bothvild then                of her ring did boast,
-lacuna- ed em (But soon it broke, and swiftly to Volund,/
She bore it and said - ") "The ring I have broken,
I dare not say it         save to thee."

Volund spake:
28. "I shall weld the break        in the gold so well
That fairer than ever        thy father shall find it,
And better much        thy mother shall think it,
And thou no worse                than ever it was."

29. Beer he brought,        he was better in cunning,
Until in her seat        full soon she slept.

Volund spake:
30. "Now vengence I have        for all my hurts,
Save one alone,        on the evil woman."

31. -lacuna-
Quoth Volund: "Would         that well were the sinews
Maimed in my feet        by Nithuth's men."

32. Laughing Volund        rose aloft,
Weeping Bothvild        went from the isle,
For her lover's flight                and her father's wrath.

33. Without stood the wife        of Nithuth wise,
And in she came        from the end of the hall;
But he by the wall        in weariness sat:
"Wakest thou, Nithuth,        lord of the Njars?"

Nithuth spake:
34. "Always I wake,        and ever joyless,
Little I sleep                since my sons were slain;
Cold is my head,        cold was thy counsel,
One thing, with Volund        to speak, I wish.

35. -lacuna- questionable
"Answer me, Volund,        greatest of elves,
What happed with my boys        that hale once were?"

Volund spake:
36. "First shalt thou all        the oaths now swear,
By the rail of the ship,        and the rim of the shield,
By the shoulder of the steed,        and the edge of the sword,
That to Volund's wife        thou wilt work no ill,
Nor yet my bride        to her death wilt bring,
Though a wife I should have        that well thou knowest,
And a child I should have        within thy hall.

37. "Seek the smithy        that thou didst set,
Thou shalt find the bellows                sprinkled with blood;
I smote off the heads        of both thy sons,
And their feet 'neath the sooty        straps I hid.

38. "Their skulls, once hid        by their hair, I took,
Set them in silver        and sent them to Nithuth;
Gems full fair                from their eyes I fashioned,
To Nithuth's wife        so wise I gave them.

39. "And from the teeth                of the twain I wrought
A brooch for the breast,        to Bothvild I gave it;
Now big with child        does Bothvild go,
The only daughter        ye two had ever."

Nithuth spake:
40. "Never spakest thou word                that worse could hurt me,
Nor that me, Volund,        more bitter for vengence;
There is no man so high        from thy horse to take thee,
Or so doughty an archer        as down to shoot thee,
While high in the clouds        thy course thou takest."

41. Laughing Volund        rose aloft,
But left in sadness        Nithuth sat.

42. The spake Nithuth,        lord of Njars:
"Rise up, Thakkrath,        best of my thralls,
Bid Bothvild come,                the bright-bowed maid,
Bedecked so fair,        with her father to speak."

43. -lacuna-
"Is it true, Bothvild,                that which was told me;
Once in the isle        with Volund wert thou?"

Bothvild spake:
44. "True is it, Nithuth,                that which was told thee,
Once in the isle         with Volund was I,
An hour of lust,        alas it should be!
Nought was my might        with such a man,
Nor from his strength        could I save myself."

(According to Thithrekssaga, son of Volund and Bothvild was Vithga /alt. Spelling Witege.)

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