In Norse mythology, Volsung was murdered by the Geatish king Siggeir and avenged by one of his sons, Sigmund. Volsung was the common ancestor of the ill-fortuned clan of the Volsungs, including the greatest of Norse heroes, Sigurd. Their legend is known in Norse myth through the Volsungasaga and the Drap Niflungs and in Old German through the Nibelungenlied.

Ironically, in Beowulf, when the Geatish warrior Beowulf has killed Grendel, a Danish bard at Hrothgar's court sings about Sigmund and his father Waels.


Völsung was the great-grandson of Odin himself, through Odin's son Sigi, and it was Odin who made sure that Völsung would be born. Völsung's parents, who were the king and queen of Hunaland could not have any children until Odin and his consort Frigg sent them a giantess named Ljod carrying the apple of fertility. Völsung's father died shortly after this, but his wife was pregnant for six years, until she had had enough. She commanded that the child be delivered by caesarian, an operation that in those days cost the life of the mother. Völsung was a strong child and he kissed his mother before she died.

He was immediately proclaimed king of Hunaland and when he had grown up he married the giantess Ljod. First they had twins, the girl Signy and her twin brother named Sigmund then nine more sons.

Völsung built himself a great hall in the centre of which stood a large apple tree. Siggeir, the King of the Geats, soon arrived and proposed to Signy. Both Völsung and his sons approved, but Signy was less enthusiastic.

A great wedding was held in the hall, when suddenly a stranger appeared. He was a tall old man with only one eye and could not be anybody else but Odin. He went to the apple tree, took his sword and stuck it deep into the trunk. Odin told everyone that the sword was meant for the man who could pull the sword from the apple tree. Then he vanished.

Everyone at the wedding tried to pull the sword but only Sigmund succeeded, and he did so effortlessly. The sword was named Gram and it proved to be an excellent weapon. Siggeir, his brother-in-law, offered thrice its weight in gold for the sword, but Sigmund scornfully said no. This greatly angered Siggeir, who returned home the next day.

Three months later, Völsung and his sons were invited to banquet with Siggeir. They were met by Signy, who warned them that Siggeir intended to ambush them. They refused to turn back whereupon Signy cried and implored them to go home. Soon they were attacked by the Geats, Völsung fell and his ten sons were taken captive.

For the continued story, see Sigmund.


  2. SIGNY. (daughter).
  3. (nine other sons).