The legend of Wayland, the Blacksmith
Wayland also spelled Weland or Völundr, is according to the Scandinavian, German, and Anglo-Saxon legend, a smith of outstanding skill. He was, according to some legends, a lord of the elves. His story is told in the Völundarkvida, one of the poems in the 13th-century Icelandic Elder, or Poetic, Edda, and, with variations, in the mid-13th-century Icelandic prose Thidriks saga. He is also mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon poems Waldere (Mimming is a sword of Wayland's making) and Deor klagan, (speaks of Wayland's sufferings at King Nidudr's hands) and in Beowulf (Beowulf's corselet is called "the work of Wayland")
In the British Museum, one can see the Frank's Casket, carved from walrus ivory by a Northumbrian craftman of the eighth century, one of its panels depicts the lamed smith working in the forge on the island where Nidudr kept him a prisoner.
The Song of Wayland (Völundarkvida)
The Swedish king Nídudr had two sons and a daughter. His daughter was named Bödvild. The three sons of the king of the Finnar people (Lapps): Slagfidr, Egill and Wayland (Völundr) came and settled in Ulfdalar. They met three valkyries on the shore of the lake Ulfsiar and these valkyries became their wifes. After seven winters spent in Ulfdalar, the valkyries left to haunt the battlefields and they didn't come back. Egill and Slagfidr went away in search of their wifes and Wayland stayed in Ulfdalar. Wayland the blacksmith was the most skillful at handwork one has ever heard of in the ancient accounts. Wayland was captured by Nídudr (Nithad, or Niduth), lamed to prevent his escape, and forced to work in the king's smithy. In revenge, he killed Nidudr's two young sons and made drinking bowls from their skulls, which he sent to their father. He also raped their sister, Bödvild, when she brought a gold ring to be mended, and then he escaped by magical flight through the air.
An English tradition connects Wayland with a stone burial chamber near
Horse Hill, Berkshire, known as
Wayland's Smithy. A local legend says the chamber is haunted by an invisible smith who will shoe a horse for a traveler, provided that a coin is left on a stone and that the traveler absents himself while the work is in progress. If he tries to watch or if he looks toward the smithy, the charm will fail. Similar stories have been recorded in Germany, Denmark, and Belgium. Some large stones at Sisebeck in Sweden and a site at Vellerby in Jutland are traditionally said to be Wayland's burial places.
If you want to know more about Wayland the Smith and about Nordic mythology, visit the site Norse Mythology.
In his book Puck of Pook's Hill, Rudyard Kipling wrote a wonderful story about these old legends and evoked Weland the smith and his sword.
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