Copyright © 1985 by Theosophical University Press. All rights reserved.
Volund's is a tale of the degradation of the fourth humanity's soul. The three brothers and their Valkyrie-wives apparently represent the first three ages of the fourth humanity. Oldest was Egil, the innocent, whose children became the servants of Thor. The second was named Slagfinn, the hunter; the third, which in the tale gave the seed of the fourth great age, was Volund, the elf-king — the soul of humanity during that phase. There may as usual be an analogy drawn with shorter cycles having to do with different types of cultures: first, Egil, the innocent — the primitive phase; next, the hunter-gatherer stage, and third the technologically skilled. These early races were still under the semidivine guidance of their Valkyries, who serve directly under Odin as divine protectors: the spiritual soul, radiance of the divine source of consciousness. They withdrew from contact with their human spouses, as this tale relates.
Volund is a smith, skilled in the use of metals. He is captured, hamstrung, and imprisoned by King Nidud (nid: evil, treachery) and is compelled to forge treasures for the king. Secretly he forges also the magic sword (spiritual will) which figures in so many hero tales, and the marvelous ring (of cyclic renewal) which reproduces itself — analogous with the one the dwarfs wrought for Odin. During his forced labor, Volund plots a terrible revenge and in the ripeness of time his opportunity presents itself. He seduces Nidud's daughter and slays his two sons, whom in one version he serves the unsuspecting king at a feast. This cannibalism of the king establishes him as a period of time, for Time devours all his children: all that time brings to birth comes to an end in time. There is a parallel in the Greek myths, where Chronos (who also stands for Time) devours his children. In this version Volund sells the ruler his sons' skulls plated with silver.
Volund thereupon escapes in a "wingwain," a winged wagon of his own making, bearing with him the magic sword and ring, the qualities of determination to grow and the ever-recurring opportunities for renewal; with these priceless treasures of our human race "smiling Volund rose in the air; Nidud, sorrowing, stayed where he sat" (38). Volund is also called "Rungner (roar) of the featherblade." This too suggests that aviation was known and used by the race Volund represents. (Other traditions as well record that select members of humanity escaped the sinking fourth continent which, as noted, has generally been called Atlantis, some leaving it in flying machines, (1) and settled on rising lands where they brought forth the races that belong to our present, fifth, humanity.) The evil king who was left behind was evidently a period when technology reigned, while spiritual values were almost entirely lacking.
Nidud was the name of a king in Svitjod; he had two sons, and a daughter named Bodvild. There were three brothers, sons of the Finn-king; one was Slagfinn, one Egil, the third Volund. They hunted on skis. They came to the Wolfdale and built themselves houses; there is a water, Wolfsea.
Early one morning they found three women on the shore spinning flax, and beside them lay their swan-disguises, for they were Valkyries. Two of them were daughters of King Lodver (Njord), namely Ladgun-Swanwhite and Hervor-Allvitter, while the third, Olrun, was the daughter of Kjar of Valland. The three brothers took them home with them. Egil got Olrun, Slagfinn got Swanwhite, and Volund got Allvitter. (2)
For seven years they lived together; then the women flew away to seek battles, and did not return. Egil ran on skis to find Olrun, Slagfinn sought Swanwhite, but Volund sat in the Wolfdale. He was, according to legend, the cleverest artificer men know of King Nidud had him captured, as the song tells.
1. The maids flew south through the dark woods,
Allvitter the young, to fulfill her fate;
They sat down to rest by the edge of the sea,
These spirits of the south who spun precious flax.
2. One Egil took to wife, the lovely maid
With fine-fleshed bosom; the other Swanwhite
Who had swan's wings; but the third sister
Embraced Volund's white neck.
3. They remained seven winters, but in the eighth
A yearning claimed them, and in the ninth
Necessity parted them; the maids longed for the somber woods;
Allvitter, the young, to fulfill her fate.
4. Came from the chase the waywise hunters;
Slagfinn and Egil found their halls void,
Searched all about: Egil skied east after Olrun,
Slagfinn went south after Swanwhite.
5. Volund waited alone in the Wolfdale,
Hammered the red-glowing gold at the forge,
Letting each arm-ring lock a divine link,
Biding his bright-browed bride's return.
6. Then learns Nidud, king of the Njars,
That Volund alone in the Wolfdale waits;
By night there came men in mailed byrnies;
Their shields shone bright by the sickle moon.
7. They dismounted from their saddles at the gable
And, entering, marched the length of the hall.
Rings they saw threaded on ribbons and straw,
Seven hundred, all owned by the smith.
8. They took them off, they threaded them on,
Except one only, which they left off.
Came from the chase the hunter suspicious,
Volund had wandered a very long way.
9. Quickly he went to brown the bear-meat,
High burned the kindling of dried fir wood,
The windsere wood,
10. He sat on the bearskin and counted the links,
The ruler of elves. One link was missing;
He thought that Lodver's daughter had taken it,
That Allvitter, the young, had returned again.
11. Long he sat thus, until sleep overcame him.
Awakened to sorrow:
His hands were heavy with hard fetters chained,
On his feet was a shackle laid.
12. VOLUND: "What men are they
Who have bound with bonds
The tamer of winds,
Who have tied me up?"
13. Now called Nidud, the king of the Njars: "How did you,
Volund, wise elf, find our noble gold in the Wolfdale?
There was no gold on Grane's road;
Our land is far from the mountain lode."
14. VOLUND: "I remember we had greater treasure, when all
Together we were at home.
Ladgun and Hervor, children of Lodver,
Olrun was daughter of Kjar.
15. "She entered and strode the length of the hall,
Stood still and quietly said:
'Now evil comes out of the woods.' "
King Nidud gave his daughter Bodvild the ring that was taken from the chain in Volund's hall; but he himself bore the sword of Volund. The queen spoke:
16. "See how he bares his teeth when he sees the sword
And the ring borne by Bodvild.
His eyes gleam like serpents' eyes.
Cut his sinews' strength and place him
In the ships' harbor."
This was done and he was hamstrung and placed in the Savarstad (harbor). There he smithied treasures for the king. None dared approach him, save the king only.
17. VOLUND: "There shines at Nidud's side the sword
I tempered the best I knew, and honed
With all my skill.
18. "My flaming blade is borne far away,
Nevermore to return to Volund's smithy;
Now Bodvild bears my own bride's ring
Of reddest gold, and I can do naught."
19. So sat he, never sleeping, beating with his hammer,
Soon forging treachery toward Nidud.
Two lads came running, looked in at the door:
Two sons of Nidud in Savarstad.
20. They went to the chest, they demanded the key,
Apparent was evil as they looked inside:
Jewels aplenty they saw within,
Of purest gold and precious stones.
21. VOLUND: "Come back alone, you two, come back tomorrow
And you shall be given the glittering gold!
But tell neither man nor maid in the hall,
Tell no one at all that you have seen me."
22. Early they called, brother to brother,
Each to the other: "To the smithy, away!"
They came to the chest, they demanded the key,
Apparent was evil when they looked therein.
23. He cut their heads off and laid their limbs
Underneath the water;
But the pale skulls beneath the hair
He silvered and sold to Nidud.
24. The precious stones from their eyes' sockets
He sent to Nidud's cunning wife;
And from the teeth of the two boys
He fashioned a necklace for Bodvild.
25. Bodvild came to praise the ring,
Brought it to Volund
When it was broken.
She dared tell no one else.
26. VOLUND: "I shall mend the break in the gold,
So that it shall fairer seem to your father,
Better than ever to your mother,
The same to yourself."
27. He brought her a beaker,
The best of beer,
And soon in her seat
She sank into sleep.
28. "Now am I avenged
For the harm to me,
For all but one,
The worst of all.
29. "It is well," quoth Volund,
"I stand on my feet
Although Nidud's men
Deprived them of power."
30. Smiling, Volund rose on high;
Weeping, Bodvild left the island;
Fearful for her lover
And her father's fury.
31. Out went Nidud's ill-willing spouse,
And entered into the endlong hall,
Where in the court he sat at rest:
"Wake you, Nidud, champion of Njars."
32. NIDUD: "I ever awaken bereft of joy;
Ill do I sleep since my sons are dead.
Cold is my head, cold is your counsel;
Now will I consult with Volund.
33. "Tell me, Volund,
Of my sons?"
34. VOLUND: "First shall you swear me by every oath:
By the hull of the ship, by the rim of the shield,
By the heart of the horse, by the edge of the sword,
That you bring no pain to Volund's woman,
Nor be the bane of this bride of mine;
If I own a woman known to you
Or have a child here in this hall.
35. "Go to the smithy that you yourself made,
You will find the bellows bespattered with blood;
The boys' heads I there severed
And laid their bodies beneath the water.
36. "The white skulls hidden beneath the hair
I surfaced with silver and sent to Nidud;
The jeweled eyes from their sockets
I sent to Nidud's cunning queen.
37. "But from the two lads' teeth I fashioned
Pendant gems and sent to Bodvild;
Now goes Bodvild heavy with child,
The only daughter of both of you."
38. NIDUD: "No words could grieve me more than yours,
Nor could I wish you aught worse, Volund.
So high is no man he could unhorse you,
None is so skilled he could shoot you down,
Where you fly in the heavens."
39. Smiling Volund rose in the air,
Sorrowful Nidud stayed where he sat.
40. NIDUD: "Rise up, Tackrad, best of thralls,
Bid Bodvild, the bright-browed,
Go to her father,
To speak with him.
41. "Is it true, Bodvild, what he has said,
That you and Volund met on the island?"
42. BODVILD: "It is true what he told you, Nidud,
That I was with Volund
Together on the island,
For one brief moment of guilt.
I could not withstand him.
I could not resist him."
1. Sanskrit vimana, "celestial car" mentioned in Rig-Veda, Atharva-veda, and the Mahabharata. Has also been translated "chariot of the gods." (return to text)
2. Allknowing, science. (return to text)