View Full Version : Wayland (Volund) the Smith

Monday, March 6th, 2006, 04:33 PM
Wayland (Volund) is the most famous smith across all of Northern Europe. Seemingly little is known about him outside of the Volundarkvida, but in fact the Germanic documents preserve a wealth of information in regard to this character. He is called both giant and elf, and while this might seem highly improbable, keep in mind that Loki is called both Jotun and As. Rydberg himself expressed doubt about their relationship at the beginning of his investigation, but time and again, the evidence pointed in this direction.

Again this argument is best explained by Viktor Rydberg, in the first Volume of his "Investigations in Germanic Mythology," which one may find in English as "Teutonic Mythology, the Gods and Goddesses of the Northland" (1906) by Rasmus Anderson. This post is a pale reflection of the many examples and proofs contained in his work, so I urge you to not judge his work, based on my understanding of it.

To keep things simple, I will limit myself to the best known sources, as they are better accessed by those not in close proximity to large libraries or without the time to collect the more obscure works. Each of you, must be the judge, whether my arguments are conclusive or not.

To begin the investigation, let me point out that a group of three names, sometimes referred to as brothers, reoccurs, with variants, in the mythic sources.

In Skaldskaparsmal 1 in the Younger Edda, we find the names Idi, Gang, and Thjazi named together. When speaking of Skadi's father, Thjazi, Snorri says:

(Brodeur translation) "Thjazi was a mighty man: now of what family was he?" Bragi answered, "His father was called lvaldi, and if I tell thee of him, thou wilt think these things wonders. He was very rich in gold."

And further on: "One of them was Thjazi, the second Idi, the third Gangr"

The variant triad of names Idi, Aurnir, and Thjazi occur in Grotto-song, str. 9; (Patricia Terry translation) "Hrungnir was strong, so was his father, Thjazi was even mightier than either; Idi and Aurnir, those were our kinsman"

And in Thorsdrapa we find Idi, Gang, and Rognir, all named in close proximity and in association with a group of men in Thor's retinue. These names occur in strophes 2, 3, and 4. The mere similarity to the above grouping of names should indicate their connection, in an artform in which the use of epithets is commonplace.

Thus, for the sake of argument we find these parallels:

The brothers


As the sons of Aud-valdi or Ol-valdi

In my experience, the names Thjazi, Volund, and Rognir all refer to one and the same person. The quickest way to make the identification of the elf-smith Volund and the giant Thjazi-Rognir is to show a connection between Rognir and Volund and then show the connection between Volund and Thjazi. If this is not clear, let me state it plainly: I believe that the names Thjazi, Volund, and Rognir all indicate the same mythic character in the works of the skalds. They are spoken of in identical terms and the story fragments related regarding Thjazi and Volund dovetail themselves into a longer epic which completes and explains the full ring-cycle regarding Wayland Smith.

The evidence which best identifies the epithet Rognir with the name Volund is found in Atlakvida 33. There Gudrun slays her two young sons, makes a goblet from their skulls, and presents it to their father Atli upon his arrival home. Carrying the goblet in her hand, she is said to "present the revenge which Rognir gave" (reifa gild rgnis, see Kuhn/Neckel pg. 245)

The only other occurance of this unique type of revenge occurs in Volundarkvida. The revenge which Volund gave Nidhad is identical to that said to be given by Rognir. In Volundarkvida strophe 23, Volund kills Nidhad's two young sons and makes goblets of their skulls, he then presents them to the boys' father. In Volundarkvida 33, Volund says "I set set their skulls with silver and gave them to thee."

Like Volund, Rognir is also known as a smith. In Forspallsljod 10, Rognir appears by the side of Regin and they are called "viggjar," (str. 8), which is a synonym of "smidar," (smiths), according to Snorri Sturleson.

Forspallsljod 10: "Galdr glo gaundom rio Rgnir ok Regin at ranni heimis; hlustar inn Hliskifo let braut vera lnga vego"

Gudbrand Vigfusson and others have identified Rognir with Odin, but the evidence contradicts this. As you can see, Rognir is said to be a smith and has prepared a revenge on his enemy, identical to that prepared by Volund on Nidhad. The skald of Forspallsljod knew them to be seperate personalities as well. In strophe 10, he clearly states that Rognir and Regin "chanted charms at the edge of the world" while Odin "listened in Hlidskjalf."

Here, it should also be pointed out that the subject of the Forspallsljod itself refers to a time when Idunn "Ivaldi's youngest elder child" sinks below Yggdrassil (str. 6), clad in wolfskin (str. 8). Thus we have a connection between the smith Rognir, and the children of Ivaldi. An immediate connection between Thjazi and Rognir can be found in Haustlaung 4 which designates the giant Thjazi as "Ving-Rgnir let vagna," Rognir of the Winged Cars, a reference that can be related to Sigrdrifumal 15 which
tells us that runes are risted "on the wheel which whirls beneath Rognir's car." Again, what is said of the giant Thjazi is consistant with what is said of both Rognir and Volund

Let us now turn to the connection between the smith Volund and the giant Thjazi. The bulk of the evidence occurs in the poems Haustlaung, which speaks of Thjazi's encounter with Odin, Hoenir, and Loki, and Volundarkvida, which speaks of Volund's capture and enslavement by Nidhad.

I will touch on several points of similarity here, which by strength of numbers illustrate that the ancient skalds knew of the identity between Volund and Thjazi, although Snorri, writing 200 years after the Christian conversion of Iceland, and those who followed him did not.

1) Both Thjazi and Volund appear in the form of a winged creature; In Volundarkvida 35, 36, Volund flies out of Nidhad's reach. In Haustlaung 2 &
Skaldskaparsmal 1, Thjazi appears in the form of an eagle.

2) Volund, besides wearing a feather-guise, is shown in close association with swan-maids who also wear feather-guises (Volundarkvida 1). One of them is his lover, Alvit. In Haustlaung, Thjazi is called "Rognir of the winged cars" and further on "leik-blas reginn fjarar," the Regin (creator) of the motion of the Feather-leaf (str. 12). "Feather-leaf" is a kenning for wing. These kennings tell us that Thazi has created winged-cars, feather-guises worn by himself and his others. (His identity as a Son of Ivaldi, creator of the flying ship Skidbladnir, shall be demonstrated below).

3) Both Thjazi and Volund are said to be rich in gold. Snorri tells us this of Thjazi in the quote at the opening of this post. In Volundarkvida 14, Volund states "We were rich in gold at home, when we were all together" We know that Volund is an elf, therefore his home may be designated as Alfheim, for the same reason the Aesir are relegated to Asgard and the Vans to Vanaheim. In Volundarkvida, Volund is called a "wise elf' and "prince of elves," thus we can concieve of his home Alfheim as rich in gold.

4) In Haustlaung 9, Idunn is called Brunn-acre's mistress, "Brunnakr" being Thjazi's hall (Skaldska. 1); Grimnirsmal calls this same place Thrymheim. In Volundarkvida 9, Volund is designated as Brunni, which reminds us of the name of Thjazi's home Brunn-acre.

5) In Haustlaung 9, Thazi is called "grjt-Niur", the Nidhad of the stones. When the prefix "grjt" is added to a name, it designates the enemy of the person named, thus a giant who fought Thor can be called "grjt-or." Accordingly, Thjazi must have at one time been an enemy of Nidhad. In Volundarkvida, we find Volund as Nidhad's enemy.

6) From Harbardsljod, we know that Thor has made stars out of the eyes of "Aud-valdi's son," there called Thjazi. Volundarkvida 16, makes it a point to tells us that Volund's eyes "glitter like a serpents."

7) That Volund is known by other names is evident from Volundarkvida 3, where he is called Annund (see Kuhn/Neckel footnote pg. 117, "onnundar"). In strophe 9, he is, as noted, called Brunni. And once refers to himself as Byrr. Haustlang calls Thjazi, Rognir, Regin, and Midjung. Like all characters in our mythology, he is polynomous.

These are some of the many examples of similarities in the two poems. There are others I omit for lack of space (see Volume 3 of the English translation of Rydberg's first Swedish volume). From this it is clear that the old skalds knew and understood that Thjazi and Volund, whom they also designated as Rognir, were one and the same individual.

In Haustlaung 8, this giant, Thjazi, is strangely called Thors "ofrni," Thor's friend. This kenning is usually taken to mean Loki, rather than Thjazi, when the verse is rendered into English, since no giant could be a friend of Thor (but then Loki, who is a giant was no friend of Thor's either). The epithet can be explained by the fact that Rognir (whom is identical with Thjazi) was once Thor's friend.

Thorsdrapa 3 tells us that the journey to Geirrod's gard took place before Rognir had made a pact with "svipti sagna," the leader of the warriors back", which is a parallel to Loki's designation in Haustlaung strophe 9 which is "sagna hrri," the leader of the warriors forward." These paraphrases for Loki as a leader of warriors forward and back, find their explanation in Saxo, where Loki appears as an evil counseller to the human king, Jormunrekr. What this tells us is that, Rognir-Thjazi was at one time a friend of the gods and then later their foe.

Like Rognir and Volund, we also find passages which refer to Thjazi as a smith. In Haustlaung 3, Odin addresses Thjazi as "hapta snyrtir hjalm-faldinn," the Ornamenter of the gods concealed in a guise. This passage is reworked by Gudbrand Vigfusson and others, changing "kvo" to "kva," and inserting a "mun" not found there and omitting a "thvi" found in the original manuscript, so that the phrases "hapta snyrtir" and "hjalm-faldinn" may be applied to Odin, the "helm-hooded one." (Rydberg
examines this emendation fully in Teutonic Mythology, pg. 906).

But as far as we know, Odin is not a "snyrtir," of the gods, nor is he said here to be concealed in any guise, Thjazi however is. He is a smith and here appears as an eagle. But then Haustlaung 6 calls him "the mightest foe of the earth." Taken together these statements show that Thjazi once was a friend and ornamenter ("snyrtir") of the gods, but now he is their mightest foe.

Emendations of this kind have hopelessly confounded our understanding of the texts. Nor is this a chance meeting between Odin and the ancient smith. Since Odin immediately addresses Thjazi in terms that show that he recognizes him, even though he is wearing a disguise, and as Odin stands in Thjazi's homeland, Brunn-acre, after a long journey, it is apparent that Odin and his companions have come looking for him, soon we shall see why.

In Volundarkvida 26, Volund escaping from Nidhad's captivity in bird-form, says that he now has avenged all wrongs done to him except one. This must have been a great wrong, worse than his enslavement and the theft of his sword and ring by Nidhad, as recounted in the poem. We know that Volund took revenge for those great wrongs, by slaying Nidhad's sons and impregnating his daughter. But this other wrong is said to be worse and remains unavenged. Do the skalds speak of any such wrong done to Thjazi by the gods? Indeed they do.

In various passages in the Eddas, Thjazi is said to be the son of Aud-valdi, Id-valdi, and l-valdi. In the mythology, we find a group of artists called the Sons of I-valdi. When we discover that the ancient skalds recognized the giant Thjazi as a smith (more evidence will be presented below), and one of the greatest in the mythology, the
similarities between the various names of Thjazi's father (where Aud-, Id, and Ol-, form a prefix to the root Valdi) and the name "Ivaldi," whose sons are smiths to the gods, the remarkable similarity between these name variants is at once apparent. Of these smiths, the Sons of Ivaldi, the skalds tell us:

Grimnirsmal 43 (Thorpe tr.): Ivaldi's sons went, in days of old, Skidbladnir to form, of ships the best, for the bright Frey, Njord's benign son.

Snorri provides us with of the details of this myth. In Skaldskaparsmal 35, he relates a story in which Loki arranges a contest between the Sons of Ivaldi and the artists Brokk and Sindri. The sons of Ivaldi are not aware that they are involved in competition and are not said to be present when the works are judged. Their works, Gungnir & Skidbladnir are judged by the gods to be inferior to Mjollnir, the work of Brokk and Sindri. Thus, gifts they gave the gods in goodwill are judged as wanting, a most grave insult, designed by Loki to cause enmity between the Aesir and their loyal servants the Elves.

Nor is this the only record of such a contest. In Skaldskaparsmal 1, we find these curious kennings for gold: Idjamal, Idi's speech, and Thjaza thingskil, Thjazi's evidence (Remember the trio of brothers mentioned at the top of this post: Thjazi, Gang, and Idi). Snorri tells a tale in the Younger Edda regarding the Sons of Olvaldi, where he relates that when dividing their fathers inheritance, each one of these "dwarves" took up equal portions of gold in their mouth, thus gold can be called the speech of these dwarves. This would seem like a reasonable explanation for Idjamal, but in regard to "thjaza thingskil," it is highly improbable.

Thingskil specifically refers to evidence presented before a Thing and is never applied to common speech. Therefore, this kenning refers to golden objects made by Thjazi presented as evidence before a Thing. We know of such works, they are Gungnir and Skidbladnir, made by the Sons of Ivaldi, Thjazi, Egil, and Idi. These works are placed before a tribunal of the gods for judgement. Snorri tells us that Loki and the rival smith Brokk were present before the thing, but Ivaldi's sons were not.

The golden works are called "Thjazi's thingskil," because they had to speak for him, or rather for themselves, since Thjazi was not present when his works were judged. Because Snorri mentions no consequences of this judgement, it does not mean there were none. The Haustlaung and the Forspallsljod skald know different.

As we know, Thjazi, in Haustlaung, uses Loki to kidnap Idunn, and in doing so treats him most harshly, dragging him over rocks until he is forced to beg for mercy. Surely, this is because Loki is responsible for the judgement on his work. As we have seen, Volund and his brothers, in Volundarkvida, retreat to the Wolf-dales, a "winter-cold" land (Doer's Lament). Forspallsljod 6 tells us that Idunn is "Ivaldi's youngest elder child," in other words that he had two sets of children, and that Idunn was the youngest of the elder set. Forspallsljod 5 speaks of a terrible winter connected with Voluspa 25 in which "Od's maid" (Freyja a symbol of fertility) was given to the giants. The connection between these two events is apparent by the skald's choice of words "lopti me lvi," the air was mixed with evil, and Voluspa "lopt allt lvi blandit," blended the air with evil. This event was too important not to be mentioned in that poem.

Forspallsljod 10 tells us that the smiths Rognir and Regin (the very names of Thjazi in Haustlaung) "went to the edges of the earth," chanted charms and constructed magic implements." This finds its explanation in Volund's activity in the Wolf-dales; there he constructs "gand-rings" (magic-rings or serpent-rings) and a most dangerous sword, famous in the mythology (and too lengthy to discuss here; suffice it to say, it is the same sword which Svipdag gets from Sinmara, "the sinew-maimer" in Fjolsvinsmal and brings to Asgard in exchange for Freyja-Menglad.

In Volundarkvida, Nidhad's queen demands that Volund's hamstrings be cut to prevent his escape. This circumstance explains the name Sinmara. This sword is the same one mentioned in For Skirnis and Beowulf, and the same as that one given to the giantess Aurboda in exchange for her daughter Gerd.) In Thordrapa, Idi's chalet is situated near Gand-vik. The Elves are particulariily associated with magic; In their hands, it is developed into a high art, greater even than that of the Aesir. For this reason, the gods rely on the treasures created by these artists and their counterparts the dwarves, or dark-alfar.

Forspallsljod 6 tells us that Idunn "Ivaldi's youngest elder child," "advanced away from Yggdrassil" and went to "live in dales" At once this statement reminds us of the Wolfdales, to which Volund and the swanmaids retreat. Strophe 8 tells us that she was wrapped in Wolf-skin. In regard to this, remember that Thjazi is called "Snot-ulfr" in Haustlaung, a parrallel to Idunn's epithet 'Snot," the wise one, and a paraphrase of Volund's Swan-maid Alvit, the all-wise.

If you recall, Thorsdrapa 8 calls the elves "ei-svara Gauta setrs vikinga snotrir," the wise men of the viking chalet, sworn to Gaut (Odin)." Again we find a confluance of ideas and words related to the elves, the sons of Ivaldi, Idunn, and Thjazi. They are "wise" workers of the magic arts, devoted to the gods, and in times of trouble, to each other.

Undoubtedly, Volund is an elf. Yet Grimnismal, Hyndlujod, and Harbardsljod all name Thjazi as a Jotun, and a kin of giants. One explanation of this, is his status as an enemy of the gods and a bringer of winter. But this alone does not explain his explicit kinship with Jotuns. Giant-blood runs through his veins.The key to understanding the Sons of Ivaldi's relationship to both the Elves and the giants occurs in Grotto-song 9.

There they are called "half-brothers" to the giants that begat Fenja and Menja. In a difficult kenning occuring in Thorsdrapa, the giantess Greip is called "The embrace of the arms of the perjurous hapt." Hapt is a designation for a divine being. Which one is meant here is made sufficently clear to the ancient Heathens by his designation as "perjurous." There are reasons which indicate that Ivaldi, as head of the Elf-tribe is meant , as he broke his oath to the gods. (The story involves Odin's theft of the mead
and is too complex to delve into here.)

In Haustlaung 13, Thjazi is called "sonr biils Greipar," the son of Greip's suitor. Thus the skalds knew Greip as the mother of the Sons of Ivaldi, Ivaldi's "younger" set of children. The Vilkinasaga also knows the brothers Volund and Egil as giants, son of a giant and a mermaid, while Volundarkvida knows these brothers as "alfr." From a comparison of sources the Sons of Ivaldi, appear to be sons of the elf Ivaldi and the giantess Greip, Geirrod's daughter.

Thus Volund may be properly designated either as a jotun or an alfr, without there being a contradiction in terms. The same way that Loki can be designated as both jotun and As, and Heimdall as Van and As (Thyrmskvida 15). In fact, the skalds seem to delight in the use of these seeming "contradictions."

Finally to show a consistancy of ideas throughout the mythic poems of the Elder Edda, let us conclude with Lokasenna. There, it is specifically said that both the Aesir and Elves are gathered in the hall. Yet seemingly no Elves are present or named. By what is said above, it appears that Skadi and Idunn are the only Elves present in the hall. Lokasenna 17 offers more proof of Thjazi's identity as an Elf; there Loki admonishs Idunn for embracing her brother's slayer.

We know that Loki once had Idunn solely in his power, when he stole her from Thjazi's hall, and that he is directly responsible for the death of the great artist Thjazi. He admits to being responsible for only two murders in the Lokasenna that of Balder, and that of Thjazi. We have no evidence that Idunn is Balder's sister, but on the contrary, we are provided ample evidence throughout the poems that Idunn is sister of Thjazi, one of the Sons of Ivaldi.

No one example is the lynch-pin of this identification. It is a confluance of the evidence that proves the point conclusively, both to Rydberg and to myself. These are merely a few of the many, many proofs of the identity between the Sons of Ivaldi and Volund-Rognir-Thjazi, Aurnir-Gang-Egil, and Slagfinn-Idi-Hjuki, half-brothers of Idunn and the swanmaids. Rydberg outlines the body of the evidence in the first volume of his work "Underskingar i Germanisk Mythologi" (1886).

As seen above, the old skalds had a clear vision of the characters they were dealing with in these compositions, it is their use of complex kennings and word-play that make it difficult for us, and the scholars who examined these poems before us, (of which I include the honorable Snorri Sturrlesson,) to understand. The source documents show a remarkable consistancy of ideas through time and place. They are indeed more homogeneous than is popularily recognized.

A timeline might be helpful to clear up the order of events, and establish the epic nature of these poems, popularly thought to be independant of one another:

-- The Sons of Ivaldi are friends and allies of the gods, often helping Thor in his battles with the giants. Egil in particular is Thor's ally and allows him to reside in his home, when he is wont to travel to Jotunheim. Egil gives Thor safe lodging and cares for Thor's goats.

-- Loki instigates a contest of the artists, in which the works of the Sons of Ivaldi and of the dwarves, Brokk and Sindri, are compared with one another. To do this, he cuts off the hair of Sif, who is a relative of the sons of Ivaldi, either their cousin or their sister.

-- The Gods judge the works made by the Sons of Ivaldi, and the works of Sindri, all created at the behest of Loki. Sindri's masterpiece, the hammer Mjollnir, is preferred.

-- Fearing the reaction of the Ivaldi sons, Odin, Hoenir, and Loki go to the home of the elves to speak to Egil's brother Thjazi, the master-smith of the Ivaldi sons.

-- Thjazi meets the gods in eagle-guise and demands to eat with the gods (in other words to partake of the sacrifices to them, and be one of them), but he is angry and greedy, and takes all the meat for himself. He particularily abuses Loki, who instigated the original contest.

-- Thjazi forces Loki to lure Idunn, his sister, out of Asgard so that he may get the "remedy-against-old-age" which he likely created in his forge, away from his enemies the gods.

-- The sons of Ivaldi are deeply insulted, they give their young charge Frey over to the giants, and head to the Wolfdales, taking Idun and her sisters with them. They cross over the Myrkwood, the border of Jotunheim and descend into Niflhel.

-- The giantesses Fenja and Menja, relatives of the Ivaldi sons, join their cause and spin the world-mill out of control, disrupting its foundations, and causing its axis of rotation to tilt slightly.

-- In the wolf-dales, the sons of Ivaldi chant "galdr" sending out powerful winter storms over the lands they once beautified and protected.

-- In Asgard, the giantess Aurboda (Gullveig-Heid) gives Freyja away to the giants.

-- The sons of Ivaldi and their swan-maids stay in the Wolf-dales together 7 winters, but in the seventh year, longing overtakes the swanmaids (Idun and her sisters) and they leave. Egil and Slagfin persue them leaving Volund alone.

-- Presumably the swan-maids return to Alfheim (or a giantgard in Jotunheim) along with Egil, but Slagfin is captured by Mimir (And reappears as his servant Thakkrad)

-- Volund, alone in the Wolf-dales, using all his skill and cunning, forges a dangerous sword, more powerful than Mjollnir and a ring, comparable to Draupnir.

-- Mimir-Nidhad and his sons (among whom are Brokk and Sindri) leave their home in Mimir's Holt and venture north into Niflhel and capture Volund, his
sword and his ring.

-- Volund is imprisoned in Mimir's Holt for many years. He kills two of Mimir's sons and rapes his daughter, before he can forge a new eagle-guise and escape.

-- Volund-Thjazi returns to his home and dwells there with Idun. Their daughter is Skadi.

-- The Gods force Loki to retrieve Idunn and he does so, changing her into a nut and flying away with her in Freyja's falcon skin (also probably forged by Volund himself). Loki, ever the prankster, gets Thjazi to chase them.

-- As the eagle and the falcon approach Asgard's wall, the gods ignite the "vafrlogi," the wavering-fire, which is the thundercloud moat around Asgard. Thjazi's feathers are singed by lightning, and to emphasize the point, Thor is said to strike the death-blow.

-- Thus Idun is restored to Asgard. Svipdag and Ull, Egil's sons, are left with the task of freeing Frey and Freyja from the giants. Egil's wife, the swan-maid Sif, who later becomes Thor's wife, commands them to do this.

Thus begins the events which begin in Groagaldr, run through Saxo's works, and then are concluded in Fjolvinsmal. (And are the subjects of my third post)