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

A depiction of Sigmund by Arthur Rackham.

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


Völsunga saga

"Sigmund's Sword" (1889) by Johannes Gehrts.

In the Völsunga saga, Signy marries Siggeir, the king of Gautland (modern Västergötland). Volsung and Sigmund are attending the wedding feast (which lasted for some time before and after the marriage), when Odin, in the guise of a beggar, plunges a sword into the living tree Barnstokk ("offspring-trunk"[1]) around which Volsung's hall is built. The disguised Odin announces that the man who can remove the sword will have it as a gift. Only Sigmund is able to free the sword.

Siggeir is smitten with envy and desire for the sword. Siggeir invites Sigmund, his father Völsung and Sigmund's nine brothers to visit him in Gautland to see the newlyweds three months later. When the Völsung clan arrive they are attacked by the Gauts; king Völsung is killed and his sons captured. Signy beseeches her husband to spare her brothers and to put them in stocks instead of killing them. As Siggeir thinks that the brothers deserve to be tortured before they are killed, he agrees.

He then lets his shape-shifting mother turn into a wolf and devour one of the brothers each night. During that time, Signy tries various ruses but fails every time until only Sigmund remains. The ninth night, she has a servant smear honey on Sigmund's face and when the she-wolf arrives she starts licking the honey off Sigmund's face. She licks and sticks her tongue into Sigmund's mouth whereupon Sigmund bites her tongue off, killing her. Sigmund then hides in the forests of Gautland and Signy brings him everything he needs.

Sigmund escapes his bonds and lives underground in the wilderness on Siggeir's lands. While he is in hiding, Signy comes to him in the guise of a Völva (sorceress) and conceives a child by him, Sinfjötli (the Fitela of Beowulf). Bent on revenge for their father's death, Signy sends her sons to Sigmund in the wilderness, one by one, to be tested. As each fails, Signy urges Sigmund to kill them. Finally, Sinfjötli (born of the incest between Signy and Sigmund) passes the test.

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

After the death of Signy, Sigmund and Sinfjötli go harrying together. Sigmund marries a woman named Borghild and has two sons, one of them named Helgi. Helgi and Sinfjötli rule a kingdom jointly. Helgi marries a woman named Sigrun after killing her father. Sinfjötli later kills Sigrun's brother in battle and Sigrun avenges her brother by poisoning Sinfjötli.

Later, Sigmund marries a woman named Hjördís. After a short time of peace, Sigmund's lands are attacked by King Lyngi. While in battle, Sigmund matches up against an old man (Odin in disguise). Odin shatters Sigmund's sword, and Sigmund falls at the hands of others. Dying, Sigmund tells Hjördís 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 Sigurd. Sigurd himself had a son named Sigmund who was killed when he was three years old by a vengeful Brynhild.

Relation to other Germanic heroes

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 "Sigemund the Wælsing" and his nephew "Fiteli" in a tale of dragon slaying told within the main story. Ironically the story of Sigemund is told to Beowulf, a warrior also from Gautland.


Parallels to Sigmund's pulling the sword from the tree can be found in other mythologies (notably in the Arthurian legends). Also, Sinfjötli and Mordred share the characteristic of being nephew and son to the main characters.

See also


  1. ^ Orchard (1997:14).


  • Orchard, Andy (1997). Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend. Cassell. ISBN 0 304 34520 2


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