Norse Heroes EXPLAINED
The majority of the characters come from the Völsunga Saga. So for the full story, read Völsunga Saga.
It should be noted, Wayland was the English name of the divine master smith, but was famous myths throughout the other Germanic kingdoms, such as in the German and Norse myths (as Weiland and Volund). The other reason, why Wayland is found in this page, instead of the German Heroes page, because my only source come from Norse (Icelandic) source, where he was known as Volund, in the Poetic Edda.
Though the Anglo-Saxon poem, Beowulf, would fall under English literature and legend, the scene had been set in Scandinavia: Denmark and later in southern Sweden. So I had set these characters here in the Norse Heroes, instead of the German Heroes page.
|King of Burgundy. Gunnar was the son of Giuki (Gjúki) and Grimhild. He was the brother of Hogni, Guttorm and Gudrun. He succeeded his father at Giuki’s death.
Sigurd and Gunnar swore an oath of brotherhood, when they met. Sigurd helped Gunnar to win several wars. Sigurd married his sister Gudrun. When it was time for him to marry, Gunnar wanted to marry Brynhild, a Valkyrie who would sleep within a Ring of Fire, until a hero wake her up. Gunnar attempted a couple of times to ride through, but neither he could ride his horse through the fire. (According to the Prose Edda, Gunnar’s horse is Goti.) He asked Sigurd to take his place. They exchanged appearances with the help of his mother’s magic. Sigurd rode through the fire and won Brynhild’s hand for him.
After their short marriage, Brynhild found out who actually rode through the fire to win her. His infuriated wife lied to Gunnar and tricked him into having Sigurd killed. Gunnar could not kill Sigurd because of his oath. His brother, Guttorm however mortally wounded Sigurd.
At Sigurd’s death, Brynhild revealed to him that she had lied. At Sigurd’s funeral, Brynhild also revealed that she had never loved anyone but Sigurd, killing herself. Gunnar had no choice, but to burned his wife in Sigurd’s pyre, when Brynhild asked a last boon from him.
After death of Sigurd and Brynhild, Gunnar and his brother Hogni kept the treasure of Sigurd for themselves. Later, Gunnar married Glaumvor. Gunnar tried to console his sister, who ran off to stay in the court of Sigurd’s stepfather. When Gudrun refused to return home with them, their mother gave Gudrun potion to make her forget Sigurd. When Brynhild’s brother asked for her hand in marriage, he married Gudrun off to Atli.
This marriage would cause his death. Atli who knew that he had Sigurd’s treasure, ambushed the Giukings (Niflungs) on their visit. He and Hogni were captured. When he would not reveal the location of where they hid the treasure, Atli had him thrown in a pit of venomous snakes. However, Gudrun threw a harp to him. Still bound in chain, Gunnar played the harp with his toes so well, that music caused all but one snake to fall to sleep. This last adder killed him.
In Germanic literature, Gunnar was identified as Gunther, a Nibelung (Burgundy).
Gunnar also appeared as a historical figure, Guntharius (Gundicaricus), son of Gibica. Guntharius was a Burgundian king, who established a kingdom with as his capital in Worms. Guntharius died in battle against the Huns, in AD 437.
|Helgi was the hero in the Eddaic poem ” Helgakvida Hiorvardssonar. He was a son of Hiorvard and Sigrlinn. He was a half-brother of Hedin, son of Alfhild; of Humlung, son of Saereid; of Hymling, son of Sinriod.
In the beginning of the 2nd Helgakvida Hundingsbana, we are informed that Helgi, son of Sigmund (Helgi Sigmundarson, who was also known as Helgi Hundingsbani), was named after Helgi son of Hiorvard (Helgi Hiorvardsson). Then at the end of the same poem, we are informed that Helgi Sigmundarson reincarnation of Helgi Hiorvardsson.
|Helgi Hundingsbani was a hero in one chapter of the Volsunga Saga, which followed the same plots of two poems in the Poetic Edda – Helgakvida Hundingsbana I and Helgakvida Hundingsbana II. The death of Helgi appeared in the second Eddaic poem. Strangely, Snorri Sturluson ignored Helgi in his Prose Edda.
When Helgi was born, the Norns came.
At the age of fifteen, Helgi earned the name Hundingsbani, because he killed Hunding, his rival, in one battle, and four of Hunding’s sons (Alf, Eyolf, Herward and Hagbard) in another battle – hence he was known as the Bane of Hundings. It was their deaths that caused another son of Hunding, named Lyngi (Lyngvi), to wage war upon Sigmund, and later Sigurd.
Helgi was the son of Sigmund and Borghild, hence he was called Helgi Sigmundarson. He was brother of Hamund. Like his half-brothers, Sinfjotli and Sigurd, Helgi was one of the Volsungs (descendants of Volsung because Helgi was also a grandson of Volsung).
Helgi was born in Bralund or Braulund, the land of his mother. Bralund was near the Himinfell, a mountain where the water falls from. The Norns told Sigmund that Helgi would become the greatest king. Sigmund gave him Hringstead (possibly Ringsted, island of Zeeland).
Helgi’s horse was named Vigblær. The captain of his ship was Leif.
Helgi also fought a war against a rival suitor of Sigrun, by the name of Hodbrod, son of King Granmar, though in other part of the poem Granmar was Hodbrod’s brother.
Sigrun was a Valkyrie, and daughter of Hogni. Her father had actually intend to marry Sigrun off to Hodbrod, so he became Hodbrod’s ally, and had fallen in battle with Hodbrod. It was Hogni’s death that caused Sigrun’s brother, Dag, to murder his brother-in-law in the forest.
Due to his heroism while he was alive, Odin awarded Helgi the highest honour of being ruler of Valhalla. Helgi would force Hunding to bath the feet of the other slain warriors in Valhalla, and reduced his mortal enemy to nothing more than a slave that would feed pigs.
Despite being dead, Helgi would lead the Wild Hunt, a ghostly company of riders. Helgi appeared before his sorrowful wife at his burial mound. Sigrun spend the night with Helgi, and when he didn’t appear to her again, Sigrun died of a broken heart.
Together with Sigrun, Helgi was reincarnated as Helgi Haddingia-damager, and Sigrun was reborn as Kara. Earlier in the 2nd Eddaic poem, we are informed that Helgi and Sigrun were reincarnations of Helgi Hiorvardsson and Svava.
|A Giuking. Hogni of Troja was the son of Giuki and Grimhild. He was the brother of Gunnar, Guttorm and Gudrun. But in the Thiðrekssaga, Högni of Troja was the son of an incubus and the queen, so he was only a half-brother of Gunnar, Gernoz, Gisler and Grimhild.
Gunnar and Hogni became the blood brothers of Sigurd, when the hero married their sister Gudrun. Brynhild tricked and lied to them that Sigurd had dishonoured her by sleeping with her, when Sigurd helped Gunnar to woo the valkyrie. So Hogni and his brothers plotted Sigurd’s death.
At Sigurd’s death, Hogni and Gunnar shared Sigurd’s treasure hoard. Brynhild also killed herself at Sigurd’s pyre. Since Brynhild was the sister of Atli, they expected Atli to take vengeance upon them. Gunnar and Hogni forced Gudrun to marry Atli, to appease their more powerful neighbour.
Hogni married Kostbera (Kosthera or Beri) and had three sons – Solar, Snaevar and Giuki. Later on, another son named Niflung was mentioned. The horse he rode was named Holkvir, according to Snorri Sturluson’s Edda.
When Atli invited Gunnar and Hogni to come visit their sister, they suspected that Atli was after the treasure, so they hid the hoard in the Rhine river. They vowed never to reveal the treasure’s location.
Atli’s men captured him and his brother, when they were visiting their sister. Neither brother would reveal the location of Sigurd’s treasures. Gunnar tricked Atli into cutting Hogni before he would reveal the treasure.
In the Poetic Edda from the poem Atlakvida (“Lay of Atli”), Atli tried to deceive Gunnar by cutting out the heart of Hialli, Atli’s cook. But Gunnar immediately knew of that the heart did not belong to his brother, but that of the cowardly Hialli, since it still quivered in his hand. When Atli had Hogni’s heart cut out, Hogni defiantly laugh at his killer.
Gunnar also died without revealing the treasure. Later, Hogni’s sister Gudrun and his son Niflung (also spelt Niflungr or Hniflung) later avenged their death, by killing Atli and setting fire to the palace.
In the Germanic saga, Nibelungenlied, Hogni was identified as Hagen, Gunther’s (Gunnar) advisor and henchman, not his brother as in the Norse mythology. Hagen played a vital role in the Nibelungenlied. Hagen had plotted to murder Siegfried (Sigurd), so he could seize the treasure. Hagen and Gunther arranged Siegfried’s death at a hunting trip. At Siegfried’s death, Hagen stole the cursed treasure (Rhinegold) that should have belong to Kriemhild (Gudrun), wife of Siegfried. Knowing that Kriemhild wanted the treasure, so she can raise an army, to avenge husband’s death, Hagen sank the treasure in the Rhine. When Gunther went to visit his sister, they were captured by Etzel (Atli), Kriemhild’s second husband. When Hagen refused to tell Kriemhild, where he hid Siegfried’s treasure, Kriemhild murdered Hagen with Siegfried’s sword.
|Sigmund was the son of Volsung and Ljod (Hljod). He was brother of Signy (his twin), and nine other brothers; no names were ever given to Sigmund’s brothers.
Sigmund was the only person who could draw out the magic sword Gram (Balmung) from the great tree Branstock (very much like Arthur drawing Excalibur from a rock). The sword allowed the man who wields the sword, would win all his wars. Siggeir who was his father’s guest and had proposed marriage to his sister, wanted to buy the sword. Sigmund refused. The refusal angered Siggeir, into plotting to destroy Volsung and his family.
His father and brothers were killed. Sigmund survived, and together with his sister, they sought vengeance against Siggeir. Sigmund had unknowingly slept with his sister (Signy was disguised as a witch). Sigmund was also aware that Sinfjotli was really his son. With Sinfjotli’s help, Sigmund destroyed Siggeir and his people, by setting the palace on fire, letting no one to escape, except Signy. Signy however told Sigmund the truth about their son, before returning to the burning house.
Sigmund returned to land with Sinfjotli, and became king of the Huns. Sigmund married Borghild, and became the father of Helgi and Hamund. Borghild hated her stepson and poisoned Sinfjotli. Sigmund banished Borghild for murder, and sought a new wife. Sigmund fell in love with Hjordis, daughter of Eylimi. Lyngi (Lyngvi), son of Hunding, was another suitor of Hjordis. Lyngi was jealous when he lost to Sigmund, who was an older man. Lyngi led his father’s army against Sigmund and Eylimi.
In the battle, Sigmund’s father-in-law was killed. Odin, who gave the sword to Sigmund, shattered the sword in two. Sigmund was mortally wounded, and his army was defeated. Hjordis, who was pregnant with Sigmund’s child, founded her husband. Sigmund asked Hjordis to collected the shattered blade of his sword and give it to their son when he needed a sword. Hjordis fled to Denmark, and married its king, named Alf.
When Sigurd had grown, Hjordis gave the shattered blade to her son. With the sword called Gram (Balmung), Sigurd not only killed a dragon with this new sword, but he also avenged his father, by killing Lyngi and his brothers, and destroyed their army.
Note that in the Thiðrekssaga, Sigmund was the king of Tarlungland, and he was the son of Sifjan. Sigmund had a son named Sigurd, by his wife Sisibe, daughter of Nidung, the King of Spain. While in the Nibelungenlied, his wife was Sieglind.
In the Anglo-Saxon poem, Beowulf, he was Sigemund, the son of Waels, the slayer of dragon (though in Norse and most German literature, it was his son, Sigurd or Siegfried, had killed the dragon).
|In the Norse legend, Sigurd was the son of Sigmund and Hjordis, who was the daughter of Eylimi. He was the half-brother of Sinfjotli, Helgi and Hamund.
Note that in the Thiðrekssaga (Norwegian saga), Sigurd’s mother was Sisibe, daughter of Nidung, the King of Spain. While in the Nibelungenlied (German epic), he was named Siegfried, and his parents were King Siegmund of the Netherlands and Sieglind.
Sigurd was the wielder of his father’s reforged magic sword called Gram (Fafnir’s Bane or in German Balmung). Odin helped the young hero to choose his loyal and fearless horse named Grani, offspring of Sleipnir, Odin’s magical horse. After killing the dragon Fafnir and his foster father Regin, Sigurd possessed the treasure and cursed ring of Andvari, called Andvaranaut. The treasure and ring became one of the factors of Sigurd’s downfall. He also could understand the language of the animals (birds) and had invincible strength and courage after eating Fafnir’s heart.
Sigurd fell in love with the Valkyrie, Brynhild, riding to Hindarfell, where he woke Brynhild and sought her counsel. Sigurd promised to marry her. By Brynhild, he was the father of a daughter, named Aslaug. However, Sigurd had fallen under the spell of Grimhild, mother of King Gunnar of Burgundy. Sigurd forgot about Brynhild, and married Gunnar’s sister, Gudrun. Gudrun bore the hero a daughter named Svanhild (Swanhild) and a son named Sigmund (Sigmund Sigurdarson), named after Sigurd’s father. Sigurd became blood brother of Gunnar and Hogni, and helped the king win many of his wars.
Sigurd helped his brother-in-law, to win Brynhild, by riding through the Ring of Fire, guised through Grimhild’s sorcery as Gunnar. Sigurd only recognised Brynhild when she was already married to Gunnar. When Brynhild discovered Sigurd and Gunnar had deceived her, into marrying Gunnar, she plotted the hero’s death. She convinced her husband Gunnar with lies that Sigurd dishonoured his oath to him and had taken advantage of her during their travel to Burgundy.
Guttorm, the brother of Gudrun and Gunnar, mortally wounded Sigurd. Gunnar and Hogni also had Sigmund, Sigurd’s son killed at Brynhild’s order. At his death, Brynhild revealed the truth to Gunnar that she had lied about Sigurd’s honour, before she killed herself. Sigurd and Brynhild were cremated together in a single pyre.
According to the Volsungasaga and Thidrekssaga, he carried a shield with red-gold inlaid, and a dragon depicted dark brown on top but light red on the bottom. His equipment (helmet, standard and surcoat) had the same colour and marking.
|Sinfjotli was the son from the incestuous relation of Sigmund and his sister Signy. Sinfjotli was the half-brother of Sigurd, Helgi and Hamund.
Sinfjotli was born as the result of Signy, who had secretly disguised as a young witch, who visited and slept with her brother. Signy gave her brother a son, who will help them avenged their father and brothers’ death. Sigmund and Sinfjotli did not know they were father and son, until at Signy’s death. Sinfjotli helped Sigmund with his vengeance, and killed Siggeir and his followers.
He followed his father to Hunland, when Sigmund became king. His father married Borghild, and had two sons, Helgi and Hamund. Though Sinfjotli helped Helgi in several wars, his stepmother continued to hate him. Sinfjotli was aware of her hatred. She tricked her husband to drinking two drugged wine meant for Sinfjotli. The third cup contained poison. Sigmund thinking that there was nothing in the third cup, so he told his son to drink it. Sinfjotli drank poisoned wine and died.
Sigmund took his son’s body to fjords where he met a ferryman (Odin). The ferryman offered them passage across the fjords but could only carry one person at the time. In the middle of the fjords the boat and Sinfjotli’s body disappeared before Sigmund’s eyes. Sigmund then returned home and banished Borghild for murder of his son. Sigmund would marry again.