THE STORY OF SIGMUND AND SINFIOTLI

As Sigurd rode though the forest he thought about Sigmund, his father, his life and his death, according to what Hiordis, his mother, had told him. Sigmund lived for a long time as a hunter and outlaw, but he never strayed far from the forest that was in King Siggeir’s land. He often got a message from Signy. They two, the last of the Volsungs, knew that King Siggeir and his house would have to be destroyed for what he had done to their father and brothers.

Sigmund knew that his sister would send her son to help him. One morning, a boy ten years old came to his hut. He knew that this was one of Signy’s sons, and that she wanted him to train him as a warrior worthy of the Volsung.

Sigmund hardly looked or spoke to the lad. He was going hunting, and as he took down his spear from the wall he said, “There is the flour bag, boy. Mix the flour and make the bread, and we will eat when I come back.”

When he returned the bread was unmade, and the boy was standing watching the flour bag with wide eyes. “You did not make the bread?” Sigmund said.

“No,” said the boy, “I was afraid to go near the bag. Something moved in it.”

“You have the heart of a mouse to be so frightened. Go back to your mother and tell her that the stuff for a Volsung warrior is not in you.”

When Sigmund said this, the boy went away weeping.

A year later another son of Signy’s came. As before Sigmund hardly looked at or spoke to the boy. He said, “There is the flour bag. Mix the flour and make the bread for when I return.”

When Sigmund came back the bread was unmade. The boy had shrunk away from where the bag was.

“You have not made the bread?” Sigmund said.

“No,” said the boy, “something moved in the bag, and I was afraid.”

“You have the heart of a mouse. Go back to your mother and tell her that there is not the stuff for the making of a Volsung warrior in you.”

And this boy, like his brother, went back weeping.

At that time Signy had no other sons. But at last one was born to her. Him, too, when he was grown, she sent to Sigmund.

“What did your mother say to you?” Sigmund asked this boy when he showed himself at the hut.

“Nothing. She sewed my gloves to my hands and then told me pull them off.”

“And did you?”

“Yes and the skin came with them.”

“And did you weep?”

“A Volsung does not weep over such a thing.”

Sigmund looked at the lad for a long time. He was tall and fair and his eyes had no fear in them.

“What do you want me to do for you?” said the lad.

“There is the flour bag,” Sigmund said. “Mix the flour and make the bread for me for when I return.”

When Sigmund came back the bread was baking on the coals. “What did you do with the flour?” Sigmund asked.

“I mixed it. Something was in the flour,a serpent I think, but I kneaded it with the meal, and now the serpent is baking on the coals.”

Sigmund laughed and threw his arms around the boy. “You will not eat that bread,” he said. “You kneaded a venomous serpent into it.”

The boy’s name was Sinfiotli. Sigmund trained him in the ways of the hunter and the outlaw. Here and there they went, taking vengeance on King Siggeir’s men. The boy was fierce, and he never spoke a word that was false.

One day when Sigmund and Sinfiotli were hunting, they came upon a strange house in the dark wood. When they went inside they found two men lying there deep asleep. On their arms were heavy rings of gold, and Sigmund knew that they were the sons of Kings.

Beside the sleeping men he saw wolf skins, left there as though they had been thrown off. Then Sigmund knew that these men were shape changers and that they were ones who changed their shapes and ranged through the forests as wolves.

Sigmund and Sinfiotli put on the skins that the men had taken off, and when they did this they changed their shapes and became wolves. And as wolves they ranged through the forest, now and then changing their shapes back to those of men. As wolves they fell upon King Siggeir’s men and killed more and more of them.

One day Sigmund said to Sinfiotli: “You are still young and I do not want you to be too rash. If you come upon a company of seven men, fight them. But if you come on a company greater than seven, raise up your voice as a wolf’s cry and bring me to your side.”

Sinfiotli promised that he would do this.

One day, as he went through the forest in his wolf’s shape, Sigmund heard the din of a struggle and he stopped to listen for Sinfiotli’s call. But no call came. Then Sigmund went through the forest in the direction of the struggle. On his way he passed the bodies of eleven killed men. Then he came upon Sinfiotli lying in the undergrowth, his wolf’s shape on him, and panting from the battle he had waged.

“You fought eleven men. Why didn’t you call to me?” Sigmund said.

“Why should I have called to you? I am not so feeble. I can fight eleven men.”

Sigmund was angered by this answer. He looked at Sinfiotli where he lay, and the wicked wolf’s nature that was in the skin came over him. He sprang on him, sinking his teeth into Sinfiotli’s throat.

Sinfiotli lay gasping near death. Sigmund, knowing the deadly grip that was in those jaws of his, howled his regret.

Then, as he licked the face of his nephew, he saw two weasels meet. They began to fight with each other, and the first one caught the second by the throat, and bit him with his teeth and laid him out as if in death. Sigmund watched the combat to the end. But then the first weasel ran and found leaves of a certain herb and he put them upon the other’s wound. The herb cured the wound, and the weasel that was bitten rose up and was well again.

Sigmund went searching for the herb he saw the weasel carry to his friend. As he looked for it he saw a raven with a leaf in her beak. She dropped the leaf as he came to her, and it was the same leaf as the weasel had brought to his friend. Sigmund took it and laid it on the wound he had made in Sinfiotli’s throat, and the wound healed, and Sinfiotli was well once more. They went back to their hut in the forest. The next day they burnt the wolf skins, and they prayed to the Gods that they  might never be affected by the wolf’s evil nature again. Sigmund and Sinfiotli never changed their shapes again.