One of the oldest stories of the Aesir:
Saga of the Volsungs
Sigi, the son of Odin, murdered another man's
thrall (slave) so he was named an outlaw and banished from the land. His
father took care of him and led him to Hunland where he became king. Eventually,
he had a son named Rerir. While Rerir was away, Sigi was attacked and killed
by his wife's brothers (a recurrent theme in this saga). When Rerir returned,
he reclaimed the throne and married.
He and his wife could not reproduce so they prayed
to Frigg for fertility. Frigg told Odin about the couple's request so Odin
called one of his wish maidens (possibly a valkyrie), the giant Hrimnir's
daughter, and gave her an apple. She turned into a crow (a woman turning
into a bird or putting on its feathers was common in norse lays) and droped
the apple onto Rerir's lap. Rerir took the apple with him on a visit to
the queen, and ate some of it. The queen soon bore Volsung He married the
aforementioned wish-maiden who was named Hljod.
Hljod and Volsung had ten sons, the eldest named
Sigmund, and one daughter, Signy . Volsung had a palace built around the
tree Branstock so that the trunk of the tree was in the palace. The King
of Gautland (Sweden), Siggeir , asked for Signy's hand. At the wedding
banquet, Odin arrived in his usual disguise -- elderly, one-eyed, wearing
a cape and hood --, stuck a sword in Branstock and said whoever pulled
the sword out could have it. All tried, but only Sigmund prevailed. Siggeir
wanted the sword and plotted revenge against Sigmund. He invited the King
and all of his sons to visit the newly weds in Gautland in three months.
After the Volsungs arrived, Siggeir and his army
attacked them. King Volsung was killed and all of his sons taken prisoner.
Signy asked her husband to put her brothers in stocks instead of killing
them quickly. Siggeir agreed since he thought they deserved to be tortured.
For nine nights a she-wolf, Siggeir's shapeshifted mother, ate one of the
Volsungs, until only Sigmund remained. Signy had her trusted man-servant
smear honey on Sigmund's face and in his mouth. That night the wolf licked
the honey and when it stuck its tongue into Sigmund's mouth, he bit it
off, killing the wolf.
Siggeir thought all the Volsungs were dead, but
Sigmund lived in the forest underground. Signy brought him everything he
needed. She had two sons with Siggeir and sent the eldest when he was ten
to Sigmund to aid in the revenge of Volsung. Sigmund tested the boy's courage
by asking him to knead flour which had something alive in it. The boy would
not touch the flour so Sigmund didn't want him as a helper. Signy told
Sigmund to kill the boy, since he was worthless. Sigmund did so. The same
happened with Signy's other son.
Signy exchanged shapes with a beautiful sorceress
and went to Sigmund. The two slept together and Signy later had Sigmund's
© 1996, Nicole Cherry
(Editors Note: The Aes were/are an odd bunch,
from the Vanir perspective anyway)