The Story of the Volsungs

Chapter xli.

Of the Wedding and Slaying of Swanhild.

Jormunrek was the name of a mighty king of those days, and his son was called Randver. Now this king called his son to talk with him, and said, “Thou shalt fair on an errand of mine to King Jonakr, with my counsellor Bikki, for with King Jonakr is nourished Swanhild, the daughter of Sigurd Fafnir’s-bane; and I know for sure that she is the fairest may dwelling under the sun of this world; her above all others would I have to my wife, and thou shalt go woo her for me”

Randver answered, “Meet and right, fair lord, that I should go on thine errands.”

So the king set forth this journey in seemly wise, and they fare till they come to King Jonakr’s abode, and behold Swanhild, and have many thoughts concerning the treasure of her goodliness.

But on a day Randver called the king to talk with him, and said, “Jormunrek the King would fain be thy brother-inlaw, for he has heard tell of Swanhild, and his desire it is to have her to wife, nor may it be shown that she may be given to any mightier man than he is one.”

The King says, “This is an alliance of great honour, for a man of fame he is.”

Gudrun says, “A wavering trust, the trust in luck that change not!”

Yet because of the king’s furthering, and all the matters that went herewith, is the wooing accomplished; and Swanhild went to the ship with a goodly company, and sat in the stem beside the king’s son.

Then spake Bikki to Randver, “How good and right it were if thou thyself had to wife so lovely a woman rather than the old man there.”

Good seemed that word to the heart of the king’s son, and he spake to her with sweet words, and she to him like wise.

So they came aland and go unto the king, and Bikki said to him, “Meet and right it is, lord, that thou shouldst know what is befallen, though hard it be to tell of, for the tale must be concerning thy beguiling, whereas thy son has gotten to him the full love of Swanhild, nor is she other than his harlot; but thou, let not the deed be unavenged.”

Now many an ill rede had he given the king or this, but of all his ill redes did this sting home the most; and still would the king hearken to all his evil redes; wherefore he, who might nowise still the wrath within him, cried out that Randver should be taken and tied up to the gallows-tree.

And as he was led to the gallows he took his hawk and plucked the feathers from off it, and bade show it to his father; and when the king saw it, then he said, “Now may folk behold that he deemeth my honour to be gone away from me, even as the feathers of this hawk;” and therewith he bade deliver him from the gallows.

But in that while had Bikki wrought his will, and Randver was dead-slain.

Ane, moreover, Bikki spake, “Against none hast thou more wrongs to avenge thee of than against Swanhild; let her die a shameful death.”

“Yea,” said the king, “we will do after thy counsel.”

So she was bound in the gate of the burg, and horse were driven at her to tread her down; but when she opened her eyes wide, then the horses durst not trample her; so when Bikki beheld that, he bade draw a bag over the head of her; and they did so, and therewith she lost her life. 48

48 In the prose Edda the slaying of Swanhild is a spontaneous and sudden act on the part of the king. As he came back from hunting one day, there sat Swanhild washing her linen, and it came into the king’s mind how that she was the cause of all his woe, so he and his men rode over her and slew her. — Tr.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/m/morris/william/volsungs/chapter41.html

Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 22:07