William Morris Archive

David Latham

0.1   Swanhild] Swanhild was the beautiful daughter of Sigurd and Gudrun, and step-daughter of King Jonakur. After King Hermanaric sends his son on a mission to escort her home to marry the king, Swanhild and the son are accused of adultery, whereupon Swanhild is sentenced to be trampled to death by wild horses.

0.7 bewrayed] archaic form for betrayed

2 Hermanaric] King Hermanaric was the Ostrogothic chief who extended his rule during the latter fourth century AD over an eastern European empire, now most of the Ukraine.  Accounts of his life are in Ammianus’ Res Gestae, Jordanes’ Getica, and Morris’s principle source, The Volsunga Saga.

9 fain] ready and willing

27 deemed] believed, considered

30 Bikki] Bikki is the king’s counsellor who connives for power.  When he accompanies the king’s son, Randver, on a mission to persuade Swanhild to wed the king, Bikki encourages Randver to seduce Swanhild so that he can inform the king of the son’s alleged betrayal. 

51 son]  The one son of King Hermanaric is Randver, who did not share his father’s admiration of Bikki.

61 at whiles] at times

81 wise]  way, manner, fashion

96 good-hap] good luck, good fortune.  Morris uses the archaic word in The Water of the Wondrous Isles – “Quoth Birdalone: ‘Is it not wisdom, dear mother, if I trust in my goodhap?’” (ch. 9, page 1) – and in his translation with Eiríkr Magnússon of The Story of the Volsungs (1870): “he became the greatest of warriors, and of good hap in all the battles of his warfaring” (ch. 2, last page); “Good hap shalt thou have / Dealing with helm-staves” (ch. 17, verse).

103 wont] usual practice, customary habit

119 Sigurd] Sigurd was betrothed to marry the valkyrie Brynhild, but when he is given a love potion by Queen Guiki (or Grimhild) he falls in love with her daughter, the princess Gudrun.  The jealous Brynhild arranges to have Sigurd slain in his sleep beside the pregnant Gudrun.  Brynhild kills herself so that she can burn on a funeral pyre with Sigurd.  Gudrun raises their fair daughter Swanhild after Sigurd’s death, and reluctantly marries King Atli.

156 Atli] King Atli, based loosely on the historical figure of Atilla the Hun, married Gudrun in his pursuit of Sigurd’s gold and in anger over the suicide of his sister, Brynhild, who had been in love with Sigurd.  After Atli kills Gudrun’s two brothers, Gudrun kills her own two children and feeds them to Atli who is drunk with wine, and then slays him.

167 Jonakur] After Gudrun has killed her sons and husband, she tries to drown herself in the sea, but her body drifts across the shore to a land ruled by King Jonakur, who revives, woos, and marries her.

174 Swanhild] Gudrun was pregnant with Swanhild before Sigurd was slain.

236 eld] old age

268 wend] go, make way

252 dight] equipped, draped

266 lief] glad, willing

276 aught] anything

282  sooth] truth

305 meeter] more suitable, fitter

309 wottest] know

373 mail-rings] the links of flexible armour worn by warriors

385 troth] pledged loyalty

390 headsman] executioner

397 goeth he] go with him

406 wroth] angry, wrathful

430 May] maiden

539 balefully] woefully

792 lime tree] also known as linden trees, their blossoms last through mid-summer.

831 Ulf the Red]  Ulf the Red was known as King Olaf’s forecastle man, a trusted archer who would shoot arrows from the upper deck of the ship.