William Morris Archive

Peter Wright, Notes for Sigurd the Volsung


1. Of the Dwelling of King Volsung and the Wedding of Signy his daughter. In this opening episode, Morris has made few substantial alterations to the narrative in Volsunga Saga, even retaining King Volsung's not unworldly motive or desire for glory, for pressing ahead with his daughter's wedding, despite her reluctance and distrust of her betrothed. The main change is Morris having not only Volsung and his sons and the noble warriors among his people and those of Siggeir's folk attempt to draw Odin's enchanted sword from the Branstock, but also (pp. 7-8) the simple shepherds, hunters, and oarsmen: a further humiliation for the Goth-king, and perhaps a symptom of Morris's increasingly vigorous democratic sympathies of the 1870s.

Page 1, Lines 2-3. Dukes & Earls. These designations are not to be taken as titles in a hierarchical peerage, as in modern Britain and other European monarchies. Earls means rather those nobly born who serve kings; early Anglo-Saxon society was divided primarily between eorls, the well-born, and ceorls, ordinary peasant-commoners. The word eorl was assimilated, becoming earl in the 11th century, to the Norse term jarl when King Canute (Cnut), (reigned 1016-35) used that Norse word instead of the traditional Anglo-Saxon title ealdorman for the king's deputies who governed provinces such as Northumbria or Mercia. (After the Norman Conquest the English title earl was given to the Norman nobles, in French-styled counts, who (with fewer administrative duties) were put at the head of individual shires or counties.) As for dukes, that is here not the highest peerage rank, but a designation for thosal creation story.

Line 28. One-eyed and seeming ancient. Odin had sacrificed one of his eyes to be allowed a draft from the wisdom-giving well of Mimir.

Line 29. His kirtle gleaming gray. Morris has made the disguised Odin's attire a little more dignified than the bare feet and tight linen-breeches of Volsunga Saga, Ch. 3.

Line 30. The Sundog. A mock sun or parhelion. (OED)

Line 32. The flame of the sea. A regular kenning for gold. (cf, Snorri's Prose Edda, tr. J. Byock, p. 124)

Page 6, Line 9. The burg of heaven. The Gods' fortress Valhall.

Page 8, Line 17. The peace-strings. Morris, here and elsewhere (e.g., pp. 59, 200) imagines cords wound between the hilt of a sword and the top of its scabbard to prevent it being hastily or rashly drawn when its owner is in a peaceful situation. Morris probably found them in Gisli's Saga (tr. G. Johnston, Toronto University Press, 1963), in Ch. 28 (pp. 44-45), where a boy asks a man to show him a notable sword. The boy then undoes its 'peace-straps' with the owner's leave, draws it, and swings it round to cut off his head, apparently to avenge the man's part in his father's killing. Though Morris did not translate this saga, we know from his lecture on Northern literature, in Unpublished Lectures (ed. E. D. LeMire, 1969, p. 196) that he had read it. The sheath-ties mentioned in one late 13th-century one, loosed before fighting started, probably served the same purpose. (See Sturlunga Saga, tr. J. McGrew, 1974, Vol. I, p. 396.) Morris already knew of peace-strings in the 1860s. (See his description of the sword Tyrfing in The Queen of the North, in Coll. Works, Vol. xxiv.)

Page 9, Lines 1-5. Morris has borrowed the names of Sigmund s nine brothers (not given in Volsunga Saga) from various places in the sagas; most appear in the Heimskringla, Index I, (Saga Library, Vol. VI, pp. 2, 58, 71, 105, 193) while Helgi, Rerir, and Sigi are in the Volsung genealogy. (Volsunga Saga, Ch. 1-2, 8-9)

Page 10, Lines 3-4. Iron & huge-wrought amber & the purple born of the sea. (cf. lines 12-13) Sweden, within which the land of Siggeir's Goth-realm eventually lay, was noted from the Middle Ages for the production of iron. Amber was gathered on the southern coasts of the Baltic, and exported from ancient times along a long trade route to buyers in the Mediterranean. The Argo on its return voyage (Jason, Book XII, line 166) passed along that amber-bearing shore. One of the products sent north in exchange was precious cloth dyed purple with the shells of the murex, gathered off the coast of Phoenicia.

Page 11, Line 8. Golden dragons. Viking warships often had their prows adorned with the heads of dragons.

Lines 19-21. Ran. The spouse of the divinity Aegir who ruled the sea. Was noted in myth as one who sank ships and drowned their crews.

2. How the Volsungs fared to the land of the Goths and of the fall of King Volsung. Here too, Morris has kept close to the Saga, emphasizing, as it does, Volsung's resolve to visit Siggeir, taking few precautions, and not turning back for any danger, though the poet has added his suitably Viking decision (pp. 17-18) to take his stand in battle on the very front-line spot where his small band had sighted the more numerous enemy. Morris also makes clear (p. 15) that Signy makes her warning visit to her father by boat.

Page 14, Line 23. The spae-wrights. Fortune tellers. (cf. the Scots expression spae-wives)

Page 15, Line 13. Aegir's acre. Aegir was the giant who governed the sea.

Page 17, Lines 2, 20. The wedge-array & the shield-wall. The typical Germanic battle order for fighting on foot, with shield serried by shield, and the center thrust slightly forward. The Markmen adopt a similar formation in their first great battle with the Romans. (House of the Wolfings, Ch. XV)

Line 22. Odin's door. A shield.

3. Of the ending of all Volsung's sons save Sigmund only. Besides the substantial changes to this episode noticed in Intro. C, Morris has added (pp. 19-20) Siggeir's obtaining the Odin-given sword (cf. pp. 26--7) and his refusal to be generous, as his earl suggests, and release his vanquished enemies. He also delays describing the manner of the Volsung sons' slaying until (pp. 22-26) their sister meets Sigmund alone in the wood and learns it from him directly, without the intermediary messengers who report to her in the Saga.

Pages 24, Lines 7-9. A wolf of the forest. In his despair, Sigmund renounces the brave warrior's destiny of fighting beside the Gods in their last doomed battle. (cf. p. 36, lines 21-3.)

Line 17. The golden harness, the flame of the Glittering Heath. Here, Sigmund seems to claim for himself armour similar to the golden armour that his son Sigurd will win by slaying the Dragon Fafner in Book II, Ch. 7.

Page 25, Line 5. A wolf of the holy places. Outlaws in old Germanic law were driven away from the sacred rites of the folk and reckoned as having the heads of wolves, like those enemies of the human race to be killed without penalty by any man who encountered them.

4. Of the birth and fostering of Sinfiotli, Signy's Son. In the Saga, the surviving Volsung twins combine (Ch. 6) to dig a refuge for Sigmund, rather than finding one in a rocky cave. Sigmund s skill in smithcraft (pp. 27-8), resembling that of the legendary dwarfs who had occupied his secret home, has also been added by Morris. The humanizing of their dealings with Signy's sons by Siggeir (reduced from two to one by Morris who has also added the escort of the one boy by a maid, and the three-month testing) found to be unsatisfactory as potential co-avengers is discussed in Intro. C. Later in this episode, details have been added to emphasize the fierceness of Sinfiotli's courage.

Page 31, Lines 5-6. The ancient song. That the Gods were but twin-born once. Neither Voluspa nor Snorri's Prose Edda (e.g., tr. Byock, pp. 30 seq.; cf. ibid. tables, pp. 130-33) suggest that the successive generations of the Gods were produced by incest with siblings owing to a lack of potential brides outside the kin. Those few Gods described as wedded usually found their spouses from different divine lines, or, like Frey (see Skirnismal: Bellows, Poetic Edda, pp. 107-20) among the daughters of the Giants. In Lokasenna, St. 26, 36 (Bellows, Poetic Edda, pp. 160, 163), supported by Inglinga Saga, Ch. 3, 4, the malign Loki does, however, allege amorous relations between two divinities and their siblings. Morris may rather have been led to this statement by a memory of the Olympian Gods, some of whom were indeed wedded to their siblings, as with Zeus and Hera, or had children by them. Some of the previous divine generation of the Titans also married such siblings.

Lines 7-8. The Aesir & the Vanir. See Sketch.

Page 33, Line 12-13. That night. In Volsunga Saga, the transformed Signy shares her brothers' bed for three nights.

Page 38, Lines 11-12. Searched the thicket. Morris, besides moving back the two heroes return to their home, omits the raven which brings the healing leaf to Sigmund. (Volsunga Saga, Ch. 8)

5. Of the slaying of Siggeir the Goth-king. In the account of the burning of Siggeir's hall, Morris has added details from other such burnings described in the sagas, such as that told in Njal's (tr. G. Dasent, Ch. 128) about Njal's home, where (as on p. 45) the attackers allow women to come out before the men inside are assailed with fire and sword. Siggeir's asking not only who is burning his hall, but how he can buy peace (p. 44, lines 12 seq.) reflects the appeal in similar terms made by Blund-Ketil when his hall is fired in Hen Thorir's Saga (Ch. IX, Saga Library, Vol. I, pp. 142-3). Morris has also (pp. 45-6), unlike Volsunga Saga, given Signy separate farewells to her son (not clearly told of his true parentage) and brother, and emphasized her half-ironical choice to die with the husband she hated.

Pages 40, Lines 1-4. Morris omits the heroes taking counsel with Signy. (Volsunga Saga, Ch. 8)

Page 44, Line 14. The women's doorway. In some Icelandic houses, as descriptions in Sagas, supported by archaeological investigations, indicate, there was a separate room for the women of the household which had its own outer door, distinct from the main entry to the house. (P.G. Foote & D.M. Wilson, The Viking Achievement, 1970, pp. 153-6.)

6. How Sigmund cometh to the Land of the Volsungs. Morris has passed rapidly over the deeds of Sigmund's younger son Helgi (described in detail in Volsunga Saga, Ch. 9) only alluding (p. 48) to his victorious battle, aided by Sinfiotli, against King Hunding, his wedding with the Valkyrie (Maid of the Shield) Sigrun, and, from Helgakvitha Hundingsbana, (Pt. 2, Bellows, Poetic Edda, pp. 326-30; not treated in Volsunga Saga) the marvels wrought in [his] grave mound, where Sigrun embraced his dead body, briefly revived after his slaying. As for the cause of Sinfiotli's death Morris has given Queen Borghild's brother (not named in Volsunga Saga) a name, Gudrod, and altered the cause (Volsunga Saga, Ch. 10) of Gudrod's fatal quarrel with Sinfiotli (pp. 48-9) from a dispute over a woman to Gudrod's more disgraceful failure through greed to divide equitably the spoils of battle.

Page 51, Lines 17, 19. To bide my sword in the island, in the pale of the hazel wands & the hazelled field. Morris has added from his knowledge of Icelandic sagas (e.g., Kormak's Saga, Ch. 9-10; Egil's Saga, Ch. 64-5) some details of the practice of trial by battle between rival warriors in dispute over honour or wealth. He combines the method used in Norway, where the two combatants fought, sometimes to the death, in a space marked out with hazel rods, beyond whose limits they must not pass, or be reckoned losers, with that of the holmgang (island-going) customary in Iceland (where hazels did not grow) in which the enemies had to fight on a small island within the river flowing through Thingvellir, where the national law courts were held. Such duels were forbidden in Iceland in 1006 after the one then fought between Gunnlaug Snake-Tongue and his friend, and rival in love, Hrafn (Raven), who killed one another after adjourning their combat to Norway. (see Three Northern Love Stories, pp. 52-63; Gunnlaug Worm-Tongue's Saga, Ch. 14-16)

Page 51, Line 21. A mighty weregild. In early Teutonic custom, blood feuds between two men or kindreds might be compounded by the giving of a wergild (the Anglo-Saxon term) in treasure or money from the killer s side to the kin of the slain, in this case, Queen Borghild.

Page 52, Line 7. She poured the wine for Sinfiotli. Morris may have recalled how in Beowulf King Hrothgar's wife, Wealtheow, as a matter of custom poured out wine for her husband's honored guests. Here Sinfiotli's acceptance of drink at Borghild's hands should also be a sign of reconciliation between them.

Page 53, Line 19. Let the lip then strain it out. Morris also in his prose version of Volsunga Saga (Ch. 10) makes Sigmund advises his son to avoid in this way the poison in the cup. In Byock's Penguin Classics version, he suggests Sinfiotli use his mustache for the purpose.

Page 54, Line 4. Such as the Father of all men might speak over Baldur dead. In Vafthruthismal (St. 54-5, Bellows, Poetic Edda, p. 83) Odin is said to have spoken secretly to the corpse of his slain son Baldur, as it lay on the pyre, ready to be burnt. In that Eddic poem, one of those in which Norse myth is set out through a series of queries addressed by the disguised Odin to a giant, the final question, what Odin then said, reveals to the giant (who thus loses the contest) that his questioner is indeed Odin himself, since only the God would know the right answer.

7. Of the last battle of King Sigmund and the death of him. In Volsunga Saga, Ch. 11, Sigmund and Lyngi meet in person, and not just, as in Morris's poem, through the earls who are their envoys, as rivals for the hand of Hiordis at the home of her father Eylimi, and after the wedding, Sigmund takes both his wife and her father back to his own Volsung kingdom, to which Lyngi pursues them for revenge. Morris has made Sigmund voyage to Eylimi's island realm for the wedding with only ten shiploads of warriors, after Hiordis has preferred him as her husband, partly perhaps to make his defeat by Lyngi's hosts more plausible, but chiefly to show him as gallant in taking risks against greater odds as his father Volsung was at the start of the tale.

Page 55, Lines 17-18. Short was their day of harvest. Helgi and Hamund, sons of Sigmund's first official marriage, have also died before him.

Page 59, Lines 11-13. Hiordis went. Morris omits the treasure concealed in the wood with Hiordis, which King Alf takes over with her in Volsunga Saga, Ch. 12, and which Regin later suggests to Sigurd that his stepfather may be withholding from him. (Ch. 13) For Hiordis, her true wealth is the unborn child in her womb. (p. 63, line 13; p. 67, line 26.)

8. How King Sigmund the Volsung was laid in mound.

Page 63, Line 12. Thy mother fostered my youth. Morris has added the link between Hiordis and her handmaid through fosterage, a strong affective tie in early Teutonic society.

Page 63, Line 20. King Elf the son of the Helper. An Anglicisation of Volsungsa Saga's Alf, son of Hjalprek. Elf's father is thus fitted for his later appearances as the Helper of Men. (e.g., p.71, line 28.)

Page 64, Lines 23 seq. A mound for Sigmund. The burial mound filled with treasure and the enemies weapons, not specified in Volsunga Saga Ch. 12, is perhaps inspired by that erected for Beowulf at the conclusion of his epic.

9. How Queen Hiordis is known. Morris has added to the test used to tell queen from handmaid (p. 67) the idea that the handmaid had to go out early for farmwork.


1. Of the birth of Sigurd son of Sigmund. Morris has greatly elaborated the account of Sigurd's birth from the brief one in Volsunga Saga, Ch. 13, (as noted in Tompkins, Morris Poetry, pp. 252-6) to make it fit for the coming of a saviour hero. Morris has also much increased the age and the skills of Sigurd's future tutor Regin, making him the foster-father not only of Elf and his father, but of that father's father. Apart from his smithying craft, which only appears later when he forges Sigurd's sword (Ch. 15), what Regin teaches the young hero in Volsunga Saga is chess, rune lore, and languages.

Page 69, Lines 5-6. A child might go unguarded & With a purse of gold. That in some kingdom things made of precious metal might be left or borne unprotected, without risk of their being stolen, was a traditional theme of praise for Northern rulers as peace-keepers (e.g. the peace of the legendary Danish king Frothi, as described in Snorri, Skaldskaparmal, Sec. 8 (Prose Edda, tr. Byock, p. 103) and in Saxo Grammaticus, History of the Danes (tr. P. Fisher, 1979, p. 152), Book V, Sec. 137; also told of the historical Northumbrian king Edwin (616-33). (Bede, Eccl. Hist. English People, Book II, Ch. 16)

Page 69, Lines 17-18; Page 70, Line 1-2. Gripir.. The son of the Helper's father & of giant kin was his mother. In Volsunga Saga, Grifir (so tr. by Morris, in Ch. 16), who only appears much later in the tale, is Sigurd's mother's brother, and so of less venerable age, and less strange ancestry. Morris has also invented the distance and the strangeness of Gripir's dwelling.

Page 70, Line 2. The folk that are seen no more. Morris, having made his Dwarfs the chief antagonists of his Gods, has had to suggest that the Giants, who in Norse tradition are their usual opponents, have vanished away.

Page 74, Line 3. Cries round the hoisted shield. It was a Teutonic custom to mark the inauguration of kings by raising them on a shield amidst acclamations, a practice sometimes taken over in the Late Roman Empire to acknowledge emperors, as with Julian the Apostate in 361: Ammianus Marcellinus, History, Book XX, Ch. IV. (Morris will have known of it from Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Ch. XXII)

Page 75, Line 15. The dimness of King Rerir & The tale of his warfare told. In Volsunga Saga, Ch. 2, Rerir, father of Volsung and son of Sigi, recovers his father's kingdom and avenges his death on his wife's brothers who had slain him in his old age.

Page 75, Lines 17-19. A rumor of the mirk-wood's broken peace .. Sigi the very ancient & the days when the Lords of Heaven & the world-ways trod. Sigi, the first ancestor of the Volsung line, is called of men in Volsunga Saga, Ch. 1, son of the God Odin. (Morris is probably also recalling that many ancient Greek heroes were sons of Olympian gods; there were seldom such physical links by descent between Nordic heroes and their gods.) Volsunga Saga, Ch. 1 also relates how Sigi killed a thrall who had done better than himself at hunting deer, and hidden his body in the wildwood, saying that the thrall had ridden away. Thus concealing one's killing led it to be reckoned as murder (Morris will have noted how in the sagas honourable men take care to declare openly the killings they have committed), and Sigi was outlawed when the corpse was found in a snowdrift.

2. Sigurd getteth to him the horse that is called Greyfell. Morris has added Regin's request to foster and teach Sigurd (song craft and smithcraft being added to what Sigurd learns in Volsunga Saga), and his foreboding, here and later, that a beardless youth will slay him. It is also Morris's idea that the noble horse Sigurd will choose will be found among the horse herds of Gripir, though the test of swimming over the river (suggested by the disguised Odin) to discover that strongest steed, and its descent from Odin's eight-legged horse Sleipnir, is virtually as in Volsunga Saga, Ch. 13.

Page 79, Line 16. A chair of the sea-beast's tooth. (cf. p. 109, line 20) A chair made of ivory, which in the early medieval north was less likely to have been obtained from the tusks of Indian or African elephants, than from those of the walrus, or the narwhal. The latter's tusk with the curves round its long stem was often imagined to be the horn of the legendary unicorn. Morris may have known that the kings of Denmark in their castle of Rosemborg near Copenhagen had a throne carved out of such unicorn's horns.

3. Regin telleth Sigurd of his kindred. In this episode Morris has improved the account in Volsunga Saga, Ch. 14 (following Reginsmal: Bellows, Poetic Edda, pp. 358-65) of the winning of Andvari's hoard by the Gods, to give as compensation to Reidmar for his son Otter's death, with a few details from the parallel narrative in Snorri, Skaldskaparmal, Sec. 7 (tr, Byock, pp. 95-6). Besides the substantial changes discussed in Intro. C and E, Morris has added the suggestion (cf. p. 99) that Regin has long awaited Sigurd as the hero destined to slay the dragon; Regin's degeneration through concentration on his smithying work; the magical entanglement in Reidmar's hall of the wandering Gods in their human form (in the Norse versions they are apparently physically attacked and bound); the idea (pp. 97-8) (not unlike Greek Euhemerism) that the belief that divinities had taught crafts and skills to the human race was due to a misremembering of instruction received from some mighty individual, in this case, Regin, whose activities were later ascribed to gods; and Regin's later perilous visit to his ancestral home.

Page 86, Lines 14 seqq. Three folk of the heavenly halls & fain would look on the earth. The belief that gods, usually in a pair including one older god and a younger one as his companion (and sometimes spokesman), wander the earth observing men's deeds and rewarding them as they deserve seems widespread in European myth: for ancient times, e.g. Ovid's tale of Baucis and Philemon. (Metamorphoses, Book VIII, lines 620-724); (from the same region) Acts of the Apostles, Ch. 14, v. 12 for the north, this tale, and the Eddic one (tr, Byock, pp. 44-5) in which Thor and Loki visit a farmer and recruit his son as Thor's servant.) After such lands were converted to Christianity, those pairs of heathen deities were turned in such tales into God (or Christ) and St. Peter. (e.g., for the south, Italian Folk Tales, ed. and tr. I. Calvino, 1980, nos. 41, 165; for the north, G. W. Dasent, Popular Tales from the Norse, 1859, no. xvi; How the First Hielandman was made from Bannatyne MS., Edinburgh). Loki in the Norse versions usually proved a more competent assistant than St. Peter did later.

Page 86, Line 20. Hoenir & who wrought the hope of man. Morris has derived his character of Hoenir, an Eddic deity about whom almost no mythic narrative survives, from a line in Voluspa, St. 18 (Bellows, Poetic Edda, p. 8) where Hoenir gave sense to the new made man and woman.

Page 89, Line 11. Your Fateful Gloom. Apparently Morris's version of the Norse Ragnarok, the Twilight (more accurately the Doom) of the Gods. (cf. p. 118, line 17, the Dusk of the Gods)

Page 89, Line 18. Well fashioned is the net. A possible reminiscence of the invisible net in which the Greek smith god Hephaestus trapped his spouse Aphrodite in bed with Ares, in Homer, Odyssey, Book VIII.

Page 91, Line 29. He weaveth the unseen meshes. In Volsunga Saga, Loki gets the net to trap Andvari from the sea-goddess Ran.

Page 92, Line 26. Andvari begotten of Oinn. The elf has no parentage in Volsunga Saga or Snorri; Morris has given him the father, Oinn, named in Reginsmal, St. 2 (Bellows, Poetic Edda, p. 360), who is among the dwarfs listed in Voluspa (St. 10-13) and its derivatives.

Page 93, Lines 9-10. The Helm of Dread & the hauberk of gold. Volsunga Saga does not definitely state that these treasures, later to be won by Sigurd from the dragon (pp. 132-3), came from Andvari's hoard, though Morris soon gives them (p. 97 lines 4-5) to Fafnir to wear. Unlike Wagner's Tarnhelm, the Helm of Dread is not for Morris a means of magical transformation. (It is not mentioned here in Volsunga Saga, while Snorri makes the Helm that Fafnir dons come immediately from Reidmar.)

Page 93, Line 30 to Page 94, Line 2. The seed of gold & the seed of woe. In Volsunga Saga and Snorri, the ring taken from and cursed by Andvari is simply one by using which he can add to, or renew, his treasure, as Reidmar realizes (pp. 94-5) and has no wider use according to the wisdom or folly of its possessors.

Page 94, Line 9. Two brethren and a father. Clearly Reidmar and his sons, Fafnir and Regin. Eight kings,  adding Sigurd, the three Niblung brothers, and Atli, only makes five kingly victims. Perhaps Morris was also thinking here of the three sons of Gudrun's third marriage, whose story he eventually omitted.

Page 95, Line 28. Myself to myself I offered. In Havamal, the poem setting out as the "Speech of the High One", the proverbial wisdom of the North, Odin tells (St. 139, Bellows, Poetic Edda, p. 60) how he hung for nine nights, spear-wounded, on the Tree Yggdrasil, offering himself to himself, to win wisdom.

Page 98, Lines 7-10. The weaving stock & Freyia & the weaving lore. In Norse myth, Freyia is not particularly associated with the practice of weaving. Morris may be recalling the Greek goddess Pallas Athena's patronage of that craft.

4. Of the forging of the Sword that is called the Wrath of Sigurd. Morris keeps closely, though much elaborating the tale with picturesque details, to the account in Volsunga Saga, Ch. 15. Unlike Wagner's Siegfried his hero does not have to forge his own sword because the dwarf smith has failed (though he considers [p. 105, line 19] doing so of Regin fails at the third attempt, using the shards of his father's sword.) Morris has, however, added (p. 105, line 1; p. 107, line 12) the idea that it was Regin who originally made that sword before it was given to Sigmund.

Page 101. The Wrath As. When he translated Grani into Greyfell, Morris has substituted a more imaginatively resonant translation for the (to English ears) slightly odd original name Gram of Sigurd's sword.

Page 107, Line 2. To the blood-point. The sword will have had a shallow depression down the middle of its blade in which blood might gather.

Page 108, Line 18. Tis ill to show such edges. Some legendary swords, made and sometimes enchanted by dwarfs, were fated to kill a man whenever they were drawn, and must not, therefore, be unsheathed until their possessor chooses to start fighting (e.g., the sword Tyrfing in Hervarar Saga; Saga of King Heidrek the Wise, ed. & tr. C. Tolkien, 1960, pp. ix-xi, 1, 19-20, 29, 68) or that which Bothvar found in a cave, in King Hrolf's Saga (Eric the Red & Other Sagas, tr. G. Jones, 1961, p. 274.; cf. Snorri, Prose Edda, tr. Byock, p. 107.) Morris had introduced Tyrfing (of which he probably knew from one of the numerous retellings in verse from the 18th century onwards of The Waking of Angantyr) and described it in detail, in his unfinished 1860s poem, "The Queen of the North", in Collected Works, Vol. XXIV, in which he has King Arthur's court encounter survivors from the heroic North. Queen Guenevere herself is warned not to draw the sword and waken its perilous magic.

5. Of Gripir's Foretelling. Here Morris has returned from the brief account in Volsunga Saga, Ch. 16 to the fuller version of Gripispa (Bellows, Poetic Edda, pp. 340-55), but taking care, as noted in Intro. A, to obscure the all too clear prophecies of the Eddic poem, while still letting any who knows the tale understand what is being foretold of Sigurd s dragon slaying and his eventually disastrous contacts with the Niblungs, the Cloudy People. He also prefaces the prophecy with an impressive description of the encounter of the young hero and aged seer and concludes with a triumphant foreshadowing (not in Volsunga Saga) of the redeeming hero s part in the last battle of the Gods and the succeeding renewal of the world. (Morris has also added on p. 110 Gripir's fortune-teller's crystal ball showing a round world, different from the flat earth imagined in Norse myth.)

Page 112. The five-fold winter; The Fimbul winter. See Sketch. The trumpet waken the dead. A possible assimilation of the Trumpet of the Christian Last Judgement with the blowing of Heimdall s horn which signals the approach of the Gods enemies to assail Valhalla on their Day of Doom.

Page 114, Line 8. The Sea-Queen 's kindred. Perhaps kin of the sea-goddess Ran, whose husband Aegir had a hall (presumably under the sea); whose floor, when he invited the Gods to a feast there, was lit up by gold laid on it. (Skaldskaparmal, Sec. 6, tr. Byock, p. 94.)

6. Sigurd rides to the Glittering Heath. This whole section has been created by Morris out of barely a single sentence of Volsunga Saga, Ch. 18 (which implies that Fafnir's lair is not far from King Alf's land) to develop, against the grandeur and peril of mountain scenery, a sense of the growing tension, even mistrust, between the scheming Dwarf and the youth whom he hopes to make his tool for supremacy over the world, marked by Morris s emphasis on the sunlight surrounding the one and the darkness of the other. At the end, Morris has allowed his translation of the Gnitaheith of Volsunga as the Glittering Heath to suggest a darkened desert lit only by faint points of light (also not in Volsunga Saga) as a fittingly terrible environment for the dragon's home.

Page 116, Line 12. Like the bowl of Baldur's cup. Baldur does not in Volsunga Saga or its sources have a distinct cup when in Valhalla. Morris is possibly recalling a phrase in a poem, in which a prophetess, called up by Odin to explain the portents foretelling Baldur's slaying, speaks of the cup from which Baldur will drink mead in the Land of the Dead. (Baldurs Draumar, St. 7, Bellows, Poetic Edda, p. 197.)

Page 118, Line 18. When & the wildfire beateth thy shield. Surt's fire amidst which the Gods and their allied heroes will fight at the Day of Doom.

Page 120, Line 7. As a God to his heirship wending. Morris perhaps imagines heirship (a legal term for an inheritance, O.E.D.) to be the celebration that an heir engages in when he comes into such a heritage. (cf. Atli's celebrating his feast & for [his] inheritance or heirship-feast for his expected gaining of great dominion after the Giukung kings are slain, pp. 339-40.)

Line 25. The Gaping Gulf. Ginnungagap. See Sketch.

7. Sigurd slayeth Fafnir the Serpent. In Volsunga Saga, Ch. 18, it is Regin who counsels Sigurd to dig a pit so that he can stab the dragon in his belly as he goes to drink, while Odin's part is to advise the hero to dig other pits to carry off the flow of the dragon's poisonous blood so that it shall not drown him (a precaution which Regin, perhaps on purpose, fails to suggest). Morris has, omitting that suggestion, transferred Regin's initial advice to Odin, whom Sigurd recognizes (not in Volsunga Saga) as the patron of his Volsung line. Morris has kept the details of Sigurd's dialogue with the dying Fafnir, as in Volsunga Saga (following Fafnismal: Bellows, Poetic Edda, pp. 372-8), even including the hero's slightly irrelevant questions about the Norns and the Gods Doom. Morris has, however, added a certain sympathy for Fafnir's wealthy but fruitless existence, (such as was shown, in his version of Perseus's slaying of the Gorgon, for Medusa's unhappy immortality; Earthly Paradise, ed. F. Boos, Vol. I, pp. 302-4). He also makes the sun rise, symbolically, after the dragon is killed.

Page 126. The Bridge of the Gods Bifrost. See Sketch.

8. Sigurd slayeth Regin & on the Glittering Heath. Morris has added to Regin's demand, in Volsunga Saga, Ch. 19, that Sigurd atone for his brother's death, even though he has himself instigated it, his mocking proposal that the hero humble himself by cooking Fafnir's heart as such recompense. In Volsunga Saga, too, it is woodpeckers (or nuthatches), not eagles, who give Sigurd the warning which saves him from Regin's plotting and leads him to win the treasure. There the environs of Fafnir's death are apparently wooded (the heather-bush; the brake). For Morris, the eagles whom he substitutes as the counseling birds, besides being reckoned nobler, are more fitting for the wasteland that he has imagined. In the poem, he has also adjusted the bird's first set of speeches to Sigurd to suit his concept of Regin's ambition to rule the world.

Page 128, Line 12. For the judging and the doom-ring hallowed due. Morris imagines the judging before the assembled folk of charges of manslaying to take place in an open-air ring of earth or standing stones, consecrated by religious rites. He later describes such a ring in much detail in The Roots of the Mountains as the setting of the folkmote of the Burgdalers (Ch. XXXVII-XXXIX; cf. Ch. I; also the doom-ring of black stones of the Sons of the Wolf in Shadowy Vale, ibid. Ch. XVII-XVIII, XX) He had found a doom-ring (used for sacrificial rites) in Iceland, mentioned in Eyrbyggia Saga, Ch. 10. (Saga Library, Vol. II, p. 18.)

Page 129, Lines 5-8. He drew a glaive ... And tore the heart from Fafnir. In Volsunga Saga, Ch. 19, it is actually Sigurd who cuts out Fafnir's heart, though using a different sword from Gram.

Page 129, Line 24. The Wolflings gathering host. Such a designation for Sigurd's ancestors, instead of Volsungs, possibly refers to his father's life as a wolf's head outlaw in the woods; unless there is an unintended reminiscence of Wagner's styling Siegmund's family sometimes Wolfings because Wotan called himself Wolfe in his human guise as Siegmund's father.

Page 130, Lines 7-8. He tasted the flesh of the Serpent & there came a change upon him. An example of the legendary winning of wisdom by accidentally tasting the flesh of a magical creature, as in the Irish tale in which the hero Finn, while being trained in poetry, accidentally tastes that of the Salmon of Knowledge, which the poet teaching him has ordered him to cook, and so wins the skills which that master had hoped to acquire (though with less lethal results for the master). (see Lady Augusta Gregory, Gods and Fighting Men, 1970 edn., p. 141.)

9. How Sigurd took to him the Treasure of the Elf Andvari.

Page 132, Line 23. The coin of cities dead. A slightly sophisticated kind of content, suggesting the Greco-Roman rather than the Northern world, for the hoard of a primaeval elf; presumably taken from traditional descriptions of buried treasure.

Page 132. Sands of the golden rivers. Recalling the panning of rivers for gold practiced in Lydia (in Western Asia Minor, now Turkey), from which its kings drew their great wealth, and came to produce the first coinage.

Page 133, Line 3. Andvari's Ring of Gold. Volsunga Saga, Ch. 19 does not actually specify that Sigurd takes this ring, which does not reappear in the Saga until Ch. 27.

Page 133, Line 15. He toiled and loaded Greyfell. Volsunga Saga more practically makes the load of gold amount to two chestfuls. (When Sigurd comes to Hlymdale in Ch. 23 it takes four men to unload it.)

Page 133, Line 19 seqq. Bind the red rings, O Sigurd. Morris has moved the bird's encouragement to take the gold, on from where he had inserted it in his translation of Volsunga Saga, Ch. 19, just after Sigurd killed Regin, also omitting their prophecy of his finding Brynhild.

10. How Sigurd awoke Brynhild upon Hindfell. Morris has much extended the landscape and multiplied the barriers with their possible magical perils around the sleeping Brynhild, including the mound on which she lies. (cf. also Intro. B.)

Page 137, Line 4. The tiles of Odin. Presumably the shields.

Page 137, Lines 9-10. For a banner of fame & A glorious golden buckler. In Volsunga Saga, Ch. 20 simply a banner.

Page 138, Line 9. A God & that in heaven hath changed his life. The Norse Gods, unlike those of the Greeks, were not immortal; Morris is perhaps thinking chiefly of the slaying of Baldur.

Page 140, Line 11. Night, and thy Daughter. In Snorri's Edda (tr. Byock, p. 104) Night's daughter (by her second spouse) is the Earth, while Day is the son of her third mating.

Page 141. Morris's fuller draft of Brynhild's tale of her punishment is discussed in the note to Intro. B.

Lines 2, 9, 21. Allfather. A title of Odin as the patriarch, though not always the actual parent, of the race of gods. (cf. Snorri, Prose Edda, tr. Byock, p. 11.)

Page 142, Line 15. The Norns. See Sketch.

Page 146, Line 4. The days ere my father died. In Volsunga Saga, Brynhild's father, King Budli, is still living at this stage of the story.

Page 146, Line 11. Andvari's ancient Gold. Morris has filled in from Volsunga Saga, Ch. 27 the giving of this ring as Sigurd's pledge of marriage to Brynhild, not mentioned at this point in Ch. 21. (In Ch. 23 he gives her an unidentified gold ring when they meet at her home in Lymdale.)


1. Of the Dream of Gudrun the Daughter of Giuki. As noted in Intro. A, Morris has brought these dreams and their interpretation forward from their position in Volsunga Saga, Ch. 25, and trimmed away the more explicit detail of the foretelling there. He has also emphasized from the beginning the militaristic character of the Niblung people, but has also placed Gudrun's telling of her ominous dreams in a maidenly rose garden, identified her partner in talk there as her nurse, and added the leisurely journey by wagon to Brynhild s hall.

Page 141, Line 12. To the council of elders with sword and spear and shield. Morris probably knew that in the Danelaw, the north-eastern parts of England conquered by Danish invaders in the 9th century, the freemen who attended the assemblies where local business was handled were expected to come with their arms: these assemblies were therefore called wapentakes.

Page 148, Line 15. Vingi-Thor. In the Eddic poems, Thor is sometimes styled Ving-Thor, (e.g. Bellows, Poetic Edda, pp. 174, 185). This apparently means (suitably to this context) "Battle-Thor". (Dict. Northern Mythology, ed. R. Simek, 1993, p. 364.)

Page 149, Line 13. As the beaker's flood is poured. Cf. note on queens part in serving wine, on p. 52, line 7; also below, p. 176.

Page 149, Line 29. The Swans of the Goths. A kenning for ships.

Page 150, Line 1. The hazelled field. Cf. p. 152, line 16; weaponed kings on the island. (See note to p. 50, line 17.)

Page 152, Lines 17-18. Odin's Choosers. The Valkyries. The fateful Oak. Presumably Yggdrasil Mimir's Fountain. See Sketch.


2. How the folk of Lymdale met Sigurd the Volsung in the woodland. Morris has invented the almost pastoral atmosphere of this section and the next two, not specified in Volsunga Saga, Ch. 23.

Page 158, Line 26. The bison's lea-land. Wild bison were still present to be hunted in eastern Europe, especially in the forest of Bialowieza on the borders of Lithuania, in the early 20th century. (S. Schama, Landscape and Memory, 1995, Ch. 1)

Page 160, Line 4. Did the world change yester night? An anticipation of the restoration of the world after Ragnarok, as described at the end of Voluspa. See Sketch.

Page 160, Lines 6-7. The chief Of all who have handled the harp. Morris has probably deduced Heimir's skill in music (cf. pp. 168), not mentioned in Volsunga Saga, Ch. 23, from his making of the great harp within which he hid Sigurd's child Aslaug to flee with her, as described in Morris's Earthly Paradise tale of her childhood and wooing.

Page 160, Line 21. A wolf of the hearth. Cf. p. 161, line 7. (See note on p. 25, line 5.)


3. How Sigurd met Brynhild in Lymdale. Morris's changes to this episode are partly discussed in Intro. B. Volsunga Saga, Ch. 24 shows Sigurd noticing to his companion Alswid that Brynhild has been weaving pictures of his exploits, as described at length on p. 164, but Morris has considerably changed, making it more hopeful, the dialogue of Sigurd and Brynhild, which in Volsunga Saga is largely concerned with the risk that they may part, partly because of her character as a shield-maid.

Page 162, Lines 12-13. The axe-age and the sword-age & the age & of brother by brother slain. A reference to Voluspa, St. 45 (Bellows, Poetic Edda, pp. 19-20), where brothers fighting and slaying one another, and an axe-age, a spear-age are foreshadowings of the Doom of the Gods.

Page 163, Line 10. The fowl of Odin. Presumably, the ravens that bring news of the world to the God. (Grimnismal, St. 20; Bellows, Poetic Edda, p. 92.)

4. Of Sigurd's riding to the Niblungs. The elaboration of Sigurd's arrival and courteous welcoming in the Niblung burg may, apart from its geographical aspects (cf., Intro. D), derive something from Beowulf's arrival at King Hrothgar's hall. The Niblungs dwelling, unlike those kingly ones, described earlier in the poem, made of timber, seems to be built within a stone-walled town and out of massive masonry, as fits its mountainous seat. The conclusion of Sigurd's response (pp. 174-5) to King Giuki's welcome also initiates the theme of the hero's socially responsible campaigning, developed in the next episode.

Page 171, Lines 25-6. The aimless Giants pile up the wall of the plain. Possibly a suggestion that the Giants, rather than the Gods, to whom Snorri (Prose Edda, tr. Byock, p. 17) ascribes the work, were responsible for erecting the barrier which separated the Giants home around the rim of Middle Earth from the plain within where men dwelt, so as to protect the human race. Morris may be combining that conception with the tale in Snorri's Edda (tr, Byock, pp. 51-2) of the giant who promised to build a fortress to protect Valhalla, but for a price, the hand of a goddess, eventually unacceptable to the gods.

Page 171, Line 29. The Smith at his work. (cf. p. 178, line 6; the slaked earth-forges) Although Thor wields the mighty hammer Miollnir, it is used for fighting giants, not for metal-work. Norse myth does not have a divine smith, such tasks being left to the dwarfs. Morris may unconsciously be remembering how the Greek smith-god Hephaestus was credited with forges in the heart of volcanoes, such as those in the Aeolian (now Liparaean) isles north-east of Sicily. (cf. Virgil, Aeneid, Book VIII, lines 416-22).

5. Of Sigurd's warfaring in the company of the Niblungs. This section is almost entirely Morris's invention. Volsunga Saga tells us (Ch. 26) that Sigurd and his new brothers-in-arms fared wide over the world, and slew many king's sons bringing home much wealth won in war, and we later learn (Ch. 29) that Sigurd himself has slain five kings, beside Regin, and from Gudrun in her last speech to Atli (Ch. 39) that he and she slew kings and took their wealth to us. But the Niblungs warfare alongside Sigurd over a year from winter to autumn with, and defeat of, the tyrannical rulers of cities in the Southland (pp. 178-9), whose people they apparently liberate; with treacherous dwellers in islands (pp. 180-1); and finally with a host of Viking-like pirates (pp. 184-5) are drawn from Morris s imagination of a more public-spirited form of exploit suited to his favored hero. So also is his emphasis (p. 179) on the love and admiration that Sigurd s kindness won from the Niblung people and even their children, as later (pp. 185, 231-2) on Sigurd's active concern, even when emotionally troubled, for dealing justice among the people he has joined. The suggestion (pp. 178-9) that after Sigurd s victories the sheaf shall be for the plougher, and the loaf for him that sowed may similarly be inspired partly by Morris s growing concern in the mid-1870s for social justice. Later perhaps the poet would not have approved (pp. 181, 183) that even merchants should gain from the peace that his hero s victories bring.

Page 177, Lines 16, 27. The steel from Welshland won the & Welsh-wrought swords. (cf. p. 181, line 20) For Germanic peoples, any other people speaking a strange language might be reckoned a Welsh, i.e. foreign one. So for Anglo-Saxons, the Celtic-speaking peoples to their west were considered Welsh; but for more Continental peoples, such as Morris s Niblungs are imagined as being, craftsmen skilled in metalwork among such foreigners (perhaps across the borders of empires such as the Roman) might also be called Welsh.

Page 178, Line 9. Their knitted hauberks. Presumably of interwoven chain mail.

Line 12. The bell-swayed steeples rock. A feature of cities slightly more late medieval in character than the generally early medieval ambiance of most of Morris's poem.

Line 27. The mighty brought alow.  (cf. Luke s Gospel, Ch. 1, v. 53; the Magnificat, v. 7.)

Page 181, Line 10. Their uncouth praying. Not intended of any religious prayer, but rather of pleadings for mercy in a strange uncouth language.

Lines 14-15. Where thieves break through and steal, And the moth and the rust are corrupting. A suggestion of Sigurd's character as a Redeemer. (cf. Matthew's Gospel, ch. 9, v. 19.)

Page 182, Lines 6-12. The plundered treasures brought to the Niblung hall seem partly to have been won from rulers of such realms as the declining Roman empire, lacking both in justice and vigor (the & purple that on hated kings was bright), though the & silken raiment of the cruel whores of kings may be a reference to the prominence of French Bourbon kings mistresses, such as Madame du Barry, described in Carlyle's French Revolution.

6. Of the Cup of evil drink that Grimhild the witch-wife gave to Sigurd. In Volsunga Saga, Ch. 26, Sigurd has been open among the Niblungs about his existing attachment to Brynhild; in Morris he only dreams of his love of her without speaking. Thus the whole guilt for his forgetting her is placed on the witchcraft of Grimhild (and even she may not suspect that love, of which she clearly knows in Volsunga Saga), which is described (p. 187, lines 7-12) in much more sinister detail. (Volsunga Saga only says that, having drunk from the horn presented by Grimhild all memory of Brynhild departed from him.) The Niblung kings are thus spared any blame for the transfer of his love to their sister, while their share in that change is partly ascribed, as in Volsunga Saga, to a desire to bind so great a hero to alliance with them. Morris has also added (pp. 188-9) the change in the atmosphere of the Niblung hall as Sigurd is beguiled, his night-ride to Brynhild s now forgotten home, and his half-unaware return to the Niblung burg. In Volsunga Saga, the whole episode is much briefer and more practical.

Page 185, Line 5. The raven-banner. The flag used from the 9th century by Viking raiders. Morris might have recalled how in 878 an Anglo-Saxon force had defeated such a raiding party in Devon and captured their raven banner. (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, s.a. 878; and how Sigurd, earl of Orkney, was killed carrying his magic raven banner in Ireland in 1014; Orkneyinga Saga, Ch. 11-12.)

Line 8. Those great sea-castles. A phrase perhaps combining a memory of the castles placed on the forecastle of many medieval ships, and of the tall Spanish galleons defeated in the Armada in 1588.

Page 186, Lines 19-24. Sigurd's singing of the Volsung story summarises the earlier part of the epic. Rerir (line 21) was Volsung's father. For the Wolflings, cf. note on p. 129, line 24.

Page 193, Line 3. The woven God-folk. (cf. p. 220, line 23) the Gods on the Southland hangings. On tapestries, Morris may have recalled the paintings showing stories of the Gods which he had described, in "The Lovers of Gudrun" (lines 409--44), in Olaf Peacock's hall at Herdholt, which also had tapestries to adorn it. (Laxdaela Saga, Ch. 7.)

7. Of the Wedding of Sigurd the Volsung. This episode is also much elaborated, including Sigurd's final wooing of Gudrun, and the details of the wedding ceremonies, especially the hero's oaths over the sacred boar, from a few lines of Volsunga Saga, Ch. 26. (The oaths of the two Niblung kings, p. 201, are somewhat foreboding of their eventual fate at Atli's hands.) Oaths at feasts to do great deeds are not common in Norse legend, but Morris may have been recalling the vows taken by knights over symbolic creatures in chivalric romance, and sometimes historically, as those made at Edward I's feast of the Swans in 1306 to fight in Scotland, or Philip, duke of Burgundy's vow in 1454 over the Pheasant, to go on crusade.

p. 195 line 26 as a Godhead banished No Norse gods (apart from the treacherous Loki) were banished from Valhalla. Morris may possibly be recalling the banishment of Apollo to Earth (for slaying the Cyclopes) which led him to serving Admetus, as is described in his Loves of Alcestis .

Page 199, Line 5. Now let me depart in peace. King Giuki expresses the same gratitude as Simeon showed when he recognized the new-born Messiah. (Luke's Gospel, Ch. 1, v. 29.)

Page 200, Line 8. The Cup of daring Promise. In the Saga of St. Olaf (Ch. 92; Saga Library, Vol. II, p. 152-3) the wedding of that king with Queen Astrid is said to have been drunken. Hakon the Good's Saga, Ch. 16, 18 (Saga Library, Vol. III, pp. 165-6, 169) mentions cups and horns drunk at feasts in honour of the Norse Gods, but I have not yet traced a Cup of Promise in those accounts of Teutonic wedding ritual that I have seen.

The hallowed Boar of Son. A boar was the beast sacred to Frey, and offered to him in Sweden. (Burne-Jones in one of the Morris & Co. Vinland windows intended for Newport, Rhode Island shows that beast by Frey's feet.) The Son boar was the largest that could be procured for such sacrifices. (Saga Library, Vol. VI (index), p. 304.) In the Saga of King Heidrek the Wise, (i.e., Hervarar saga, ed. C.R.R. Tolkien, 1960, pp. 30-1) that king is said to have sworn to do justice, over a boar as great as a bull. Morris has Face-of-God and his kinsmen and neighbors take various vows over the Holy Boar of Yule in The Roots of the Mountains, Ch. XI.


8. Sigurd rides with the Niblungs and wooeth Brynhild for King Gunnar. Besides inserting King Giuki's death (only implied in Volsunga Saga), and omitting, as is noted in Intro. B, all the approaches made on Gunnar's behalf to Brynhild's kindred, Morris has emphasized more than Volsunga the part played by Grimhild's enchantments both in inducing Gunnar to woo the flame-girt Valkyrie (p. 208) and in the shape-changing between that king and Sigurd, only briefly noted in Volsunga Saga. He has also much elaborated the psychological aspect of that transformation, as experienced by Sigurd, but has reduced the weight laid in Volsunga Saga, Ch. 27, on Brynhild's oath to wed only the bravest of men, and her expectation that only Sigurd could prove his valor by successfully riding through her fire. Morris does, however, give a fuller description of her disquiet at being wooed by the feigned Gunnar, besides making Sigurd a little troubled by what he is doing.

Pages 204-205. Morris has given much more detail about the making of foster-brotherhood between Sigurd and Gunnar and Hogni. Volsunga Saga, says merely (Ch. 26) that they swore brotherhood together. Morris has borrowed the passing together under a raised-up strip of turf, and the mingling of bloods in the earth from the account of such a swearing in Gisli's Saga, Ch. 6 (tr. G. Johnson, 1963, pp. 7-8). He has also inserted the absence of Guttorm, excluding him from that bond, which is later used (p. 255; cf. Volsunga Saga, Ch. 30) to spare him formal guilt when Sigurd's blood-brothers plot his slaying.

Page 209, Lines 7-18. Morris has invented Hogni's refusal to let Gunnar wear Sigurd's golden armour to ride the fire, insisting on the dark Niblung harness passing through it.

Page 212, Lines 18-19. The sphere-streams drift. An apparent intrusion of Ptolemaic, perhaps even Newtonian, astronomy, with circling planets and an outer void, into the Norse cosmos. The lift is the air.

Lines 30-1. The eager blade that leaps in the hand of Gunnar. Morris has here extended Sigurd's transformation to include his weapon: as on p. 217, it is a blue Niblung blade that separates him from Brynhild as they lie side by side in bed. But at the end of that scene, it is the light that had lain in the Branstock that severs them, just as Volsunga Saga had specified Gram as the dividing sword. (Morris has also omitted Sigurd's excuse for laying a sword between them on their wedding night.)

Page 214, Line 15. The snow-white linen. In Volsunga Saga, Brynhild not only has a drawn sword, but is clad in a byrny.

Page 217, Lines 20-1. In the moonlit minster. Another rather late medieval style of burial with effigies laid on tomb chests.

Page 218, Lines 18-19. A ring of the spoils of the Southland. In Volsunga Saga, the ring Sigurd gives comes from Fafnir's hoard.

Line 22. Ere full ten days are o er (cf. p. 220, line 4). Brynhild's ten days delay here replaces her going in Volsunga Saga to her foster-father Heimir.

Page 221, Lines 1-10. Here Morris has added Sigurd's giving (not specified at this point in Volsunga Saga) to Gudrun of Andvari's ring given to him by Brynhild at her betrothal and emphasized the curse on it.

9. How Brynhild was wedded to Gunnar the Niblung. Here again, Morris has greatly enlarged the description both of the wedding ceremonies (covered in Volsunga Saga, Ch. 27 in a bare seven lines) and of the underlying psychological tensions, and especially the encounter between Sigurd and Brynhild and their sudden awareness how they have been parted. (In Volsunga Saga, Sigurd apparently remembers the oaths that he sware unto Brynhild when the wedding feast ends.) Morris has also imagined Gudrun's failure to greet Brynhild.

Page 222, Line 1. The maids of war. Brynhild's escort, apparently of Valkyries, is Morris's invention.

Line 8. The wain of the sea be-shielded. A Viking warship with its sides lined with shields.

9. Of the Contention between the Queens. Morris has added the opening section clarifying the strained relations between the protagonists of the tale, especially the half-conscious rivalry between the two Queens over Sigurd as the noblest of heroes; has allowed for the passage of time in which they can develop; and has stressed, as Volsunga Saga does not, Brynhild's grief and (relative) forbearance towards Gudrun's pride in her husband. He has also moved Sigurd's rebuke of Gudrun's revelations to a later position in the story (pp. 240-1), after the Queens' second encounter in their garden.

Page 230, Lines 4 seqq. Morris has invented Grimhild's arousal in Gunnar of jealousy both of Sigurd's wealth, and of his possible rivalry for kingship: cf. pp. 242-3.

Page 232, Line 25. So shalt thou go before me. In Volsunga Saga, rather than courteously offering to let Gudrun go first into the water, Brynhild moves at once out before her into the river, which she does only later in Morris's version, (p. 233).when she is unhappily moved to assert, as in Volsunga Saga, Sigurd's inferiority to Gunnar.

Page 233, Line 18. In Freyia. A garden Morris has invented, here and later (e.g., p. 269, line 19), a paradise after death for noble women under Freyia's governance, that is not in Norse myth, though within three lines he has supposed that such women will also sit beside the heroic warriors in Odin's hall.

Page 234, Line 25. The learned in the lore of Regin (cf. p. 238 line 18). Morris makes Gudrun unaware of the part that her mother's spells played in the shape-changing of Sigurd into Gunnar, and so gives Brynhild even greater cause for resentment at Sigurd's part in it, though by their next talk she has realized (as in Volsunga Saga) that it was Grimhild's magic drink that made Sigurd forget her.

Pages 237-9. Morris has added most of Brynhild's curses on the Niblungs dwelling for the lie by which she has been entrapped, and Gudrun's haughty responses, but has omitted Brynhild's final attempt (at the end of Ch. 28) at quieting the quarrel.

10. Gunnar talketh with Brynhild. Besides cutting, as noted in Intro. B, Brynhild's father's share in arranging her marriage, Morris has omitted, from Ch. 29, her threat and attempt to kill Gunnar and consequent, brief, restraint by Hogni, but has added the ambition (p. 243) to be sole King in the world-throne that will help drive Gunnar towards slaying Sigurd, and his apparent fear that she has been reincarnated (not a Norse idea) to harm the Niblungs.

11. Of the exceeding great grief and mourning of Brynhild. In this section, Morris has kept quite close in substance to the continuation of Volsunga Saga, Ch. 29 for the last talk between Sigurd and Brynhild, though cutting detail including his last attempt to have her content with her marriage to Gunnar and her shame at breaking her oath. Morris has, however, inserted before that meeting Gudrun's finding her brothers and husband seated still in their armour when she fails to make them speak to Brynhild, and Sigurd's acceptance of his doom. (In Volsunga Saga, Gunnar and Hogni do make fruitless efforts to break Brynhild's silence, while Sigurd has just returned from hunting.) Morris has also imagined the symbolic passing of night into day before that final encounter.

Page 245, Line 15. A noble woman. In Volsunga Saga, named as Swaflod.

Page 251, Line 9. The field of Odin. The field of battle.

12. Of the slaying of Sigurd the Volsung. Here again, Morris, having decided to follow the version in Volsunga Saga, Ch. 30 in which, following Sigurtharkvitha, st. 20--23 (Bellows, Poetic Edda, pp. 427--8) the hero is killed in his bed in the house (and not as in one Eddic poem, and in the Nibelungenlied, treacherously stabbed out hunting) has kept the basic structure of the killing in Volsunga Saga, including Guttorm's three attempts at the slaying, and Brynhild's laughter afterwards. But he has added the part taken by Grimhild, only hinted at in Volsunga Saga, including her planning Guttorm's involvement and preparing the evil drink to encourage him to do that deed. (In Volsunga Saga the potion is provided by his brothers, who offer him rewards, as well as drugging him.) Morris has also increased in his telling the atmospheric tension of the event, placing the Niblung kings sitting in their pride armed on their high seat into the darkness before dawn, as a rebuke for Guttorm's delay, and imagining Brynhild, ghostly in white, joining them. He has also omitted (save for a brief reference on p. 260 by Gudrun, foreshadowing their doom in Atli's hall), the Niblung kings' concern at losing a mighty brother-in-arms; has much reduced Sigurd's last speeches, losing his vindication of his innocence when he shared Brynhild's bed; and has shown the Giukungs calming the shocked reaction of the ordinary Niblung warriors to the hero's slaying. (By having Sigurd slain in bed and not outdoors, Morris has lost the opportunity for a last appearance for his horse Greyfell, who is in one Eddic poem shown returning unbacked by his heroic master, and mourning over his body: Bellows, Poetic Edda, p. 406; but like his sources, Morris spares that steed from being sacrificed on Sigurd's pyre, for which only hounds and hawks are killed: ibid. p. 440.)

Page 255, Line 11. Where then is Guttorm the brave? In Volsunga Saga, it is Gunnar, not his mother, who seeks to implicate the unsworn Guttorm.

Page 269, Line 9. The sorrow of Odin the Goth (cf. p. 288, line 19; p. 345, line 21). Gaut, also Goth, was one of Odin's titles: e.g., Grimnismal, st. 54 (Bellows, Poetic Edda, p. 105), probably because he was reckoned as a forefather of the Goths, as of other Germanic races.

Page 275, Line 22. The carven dead that die not (cf. note on p. 217 lines 20--1; also p. 249 lines 9--14).

Page 262, Lines 3-6. Guttorm's funeral. In Volsunga Saga, Ch. 32, Guttorm apparently shares the same pyre as Sigurd. For Morris's alteration, see also p. 270, lines 7-18.

Page 262, Lines 9-10. The redeemer & they loved, and they thrust him forth. Another example of how Morris raises Sigurd almost to Messianic standing, but now as a rejected redeemer.

13. Of the mighty Grief of Gudrun over Sigurd dead. Gudrun's sorrow, only briefly dealt with in Volsunga Saga, Ch. 30, is here elaborated from the description in Guthrunarkvitha, I (Bellows, Poetic Edda, pp. 412-19), of which Morris provides a translation as Ch. 31 of his version. Morris has kept most of the details in that Eddic poem, though sometimes, as in Giaflaug's speech, omitting the actual numbers of the kin or spouses lost by the noble women who adduce their own misfortunes in their attempt to give Gudrun the release of tears. He has also added Gudrun's final imprecation on her brothers after her angry exchange with Brynhild, and brought forward (from Ch. 33: see Intro. B) her flight from the Niblung hall.

Page 263, Line 26. A Queen of Welshland. In the Eddic poem, Herborg is a queen of Hunland. Morris presumably thought Welsh people more likely victims of such piracy. (He has also cut Herborg's account of her mistreatment by her master's wife.)

Page 264, Line 15. A maid of the Niblungs. In the Eddic poem, Gullrond is a (not elsewhere recorded) daughter of Giuki, and so a sister of Gudrun.

14. Of the passing away of Brynhild. Besides the changes noted in Intro. A (Morris has made much less explicit the predictions of Gunnar's death, singing in the snakepit, and of the succeeding internecine conflict among Atli's folk as his hall burns: see pp. 343-4), B, and C, Morris has added the concluding half-symbolic tableau where the light of Sigurd's sword gleams, almost threateningly, far over the land for the last time, and the lament for the passing of Sigurd and Brynhild.

Page 269, Line 19. The hall of Freyia. Morris, though here repeating the suggestion that Freyia has a hall where valiant women are to dwell in Valhalla, parallel to Odin's hall for warriors, keeps closer in Brynhild's last speech to that, in Volsunga Saga Ch. 32, derived from the short lay of Sigurd, st. 68 (Bellows, Poetic Edda, p. 441) asserting that she will follow in her beloved's footsteps into the hero's company.

Page 271, Lines 19-20. The sword & wherewith I sheared the wind. It is Morris's idea that Brynhild's death weapon is the sword that she wielded as a Valkyrie.

Page 273, Line 3. The Light of the Branstock. In Volsunga Saga, Ch. 32, the blade that again separates the pair of thwarted lovers is just a drawn sword. Morris has chosen to make it the weapon that has passed through so many fateful events in the Volsung story.


1. King Atli wooeth and weddeth Gudrun. In Volsunga Saga, Ch. 33 the Giukungs attempt, by their mothers' counsel and aided by her magic potion, to seek out and win back Gudrun is ostensibly intended just to make atonement for the deaths of her husband and son; her proposed marriage to King Atli, whom Morris takes care to introduce first here, along with his greed for gold, appears almost incidentally. So Morris has had to devise the initial message seeking her hand sent by Atli's Earl (pp. 277-9). (For the geography, here and later, of the lands between Atli's and the Niblungs, see Intro. D). Grimhild's knowledge of Gudrun's refuge (pp. 279-80) along with the details of the Giukings' journey thither and their persuasion of their sister (in which Morris has invented Hogni's active part), have also been elaborated from Volsunga Saga and the associated poem (Bellows, Poetic Edda, pp. 455-62), though some names of those in their company have been cut.

Page 284, Line 9. The cup was in her hand. In Volsunga Saga, it is Gunnar, not Grimhild (as in the relevant poem), who gives Gudrun this drink, whose contents, as Morris has vaguely described them, are less loathsome than those described in the Eddic verses quoted in Volsunga Saga, Ch. 33.

Page 284, Line 22. As if Sigmund were living. Referring not to Sigurd's father, but to his murdered young son, whose existence Morris, hastily following Volsunga Saga, acknowledges in this single place.

Page 285, Lines 3-4. The wine-burgs digged. Morris has replaced with descriptions of the (unknown) places, Vinbiorg and Valbiorg, offered to Gudrun, as part of her marriage portion in Volsunga Saga.

Pages 285-6. In Volsunga Saga (and its sources), Gudrun seems to be taken (over twelve days) directly to the home of her new husband for her wedding. Her intermediate return to the Niblung hall has been devised by Morris, perhaps to add to her distress at her memories of what befell there.

2. Atli biddeth the Niblungs to him. For Morris's adoption in this and succeeding sections of his poem, of the Nibelungenlied's motive for Kriemhild of revenge for her husband, as indicated on pp. 288-9, instead of Gudrun's in Volsunga Saga of sympathy for her brothers, and the consequent alterations in Gudrun's actions, see Intro. B. In removing her sending a warning to those brothers, in Volsunga Saga, Ch. 34, by a wolf's hair wound round a ring (along with runes which Atli's messenger distorts), the poet has lost a final opportunity (unlike Wagner who keeps his Ring prominent to the end), for reintroducing Andvari's doom-laden ring, as the one thus sent: in Morris's poem it disappears after Gudrun has displayed it to taunt Brynhild in III. 9, though it presumably remained in Gudrun's possession, since it is not burnt on Sigurd's pyre. While keeping the basic structure of Volsunga Saga, Ch. 34, Morris has considerably elaborated, on pp. 291-2, Gunnar's proud description of the Giukungs wealth. He has invented Knefrud's initial ambiguous accounts of Gudrun's longing to see her brothers, also adding, as a motive for the Niblungs journey, Gunnar's desire to meet her again. He has also softened (see p. 294, lines 18-20) the suggestion in Volsunga Saga that Gunnar was exceeding drunken when he decided to visit Atli, though keeping the prospect held out to the Niblung kings of sharing in the aged Atli's wealth and power.

Page 286, Line 25. The mirk-wood. Mirkwood (now notorious from Professor Tolkien's Hobbit), later in this poem mentioned (e.g. pp. 292, 309, following Atlakvitha, st. 3, 5, 13: Bellows, Poetic Edda, pp. 483-4, 487) as a forest east of the sea on the way between the lands of Atli and the Niblungs, was famous in early Germanic legend as a boundary between Germanic realms and that of the Huns: Saga of King Heidrek the Wise, ed. C. Tolkien (1960), pp. xxvi-xxvii, 49, 52-3.

Page 288, Line 19. The Ransom of Odin the Goth. Andvari's gold was given to Reidmar to liberate Odin and his companions in II. 3.

Page 289, Line 18. The man named Knefrud. Morris has replaced the name Vingi given to Atli's envoy in Volsunga Saga, Ch. 34, as in Atlamal, with that used in Atlakvitha, st. 1 (Bellows, Poetic Edda, p. 482).

Page 292, Lines 25-6. When the winds and the waves may be dealing. Morris makes Hogni repeat his preference, when Atli's first sought Gudrun's hand, (p. 281, lines 14-15) for having the sea between him and potentially dangerous neighbours.

Page 293, Line 28. The master of the pine-wood. The wolf.

Page 295, Lines 2-15. Morris has devised the irony by which the rejoicing of the warriors within the hall seems, to the women and others outside, a foreboding of disaster.

3. How the Niblungs fared to the land of King Atli. Here, Morris has made the Niblungs parting from their home more doom-laden than in Volsunga Saga, Ch. 36, where clearly only part of that people journey to the Huns land, the more part of their folk being left behind to bid farewell. In Atlamal, st. 27 (Bellows, Poetic Edda, p. 509), which Morris did not translate for his version of Volsunga Saga, the whole company apparently numbers only fifteen, but for Morris the whole Niblung war host goes to its doom, leaving their feast hall (cf. p. 295) to be occupied by wild beasts (cf. Atlakvitha, st. 11: Bellows, p. 486). Morris suggests (pp. 303-5) that it is mainly the women who are left at home. In the opening part of this section (pp. 297-9) Morris has had to produce his own version of the hiding of the Niblungs hoard, here hastily performed in anticipation of that folk's utter destruction. Though the tale later presupposes (cf. IV. 6: pp. 324-32) that the treasure has been concealed in a manner known only to Gunnar and Hogni, being eventually implied in Ch. 38 to have been sunk in the Rhine, Volsunga Saga gives no account of how that was effected. So Morris has fallen back on the version in the Nibelungenlied, (tr. Hatto, ch. 19; pp. 145-9) in which, at a rather earlier stage in the story, after Kriemhild has been induced to fetch Siegfried's treasure to Worms, Hagen casts it into the Rhine so that she shall not be able to use it to win over warriors to help avenge her husband. The several wainloads (expanded from Grani's single horse load) which Hogni and his (invented) foster-brothers throw into a deep, dark pool in the river, (whose description contains reminiscences of the crag-surrounded mere which in Beowulf is the lair of Grendel's mother), were perhaps suggested by the twelve wagons (tr. Hatto, p. 147) needed to carry Kriemhild's gold to its brief new home. In the next section (pp. 299-305) the Giukungs wives' ominous dreams, and the forcedly favorable interpretations given to them, particularly by Hogni, are elaborated, selecting some details, from those in Volsunga Saga, Ch. 35-6 (based on Atlamal, st. 10-26: Bellows, Poetic Edda, pp. 503-9), though Bera's vision of Hogni's heart being sacrificed by Atli was devised by Morris. Grimhild's haughty farewell to her sons, and her despairing death (pp. 305-7), are entirely Morris's invention.

Page 298, Line 1. The plunging lead. The lead-weighted line of rope, knotted to mark fathoms, by which sailing ships sounded the depth of the sea.

Page 298, Line 10. And the silver-scaled sea-farers love not its barren space. Cf. the hunted stag that will not plunge into Grendel's mother's fearsome pool, in Beowulf.

Page 299, Line 17. O Bera. In Volsunga Saga, Hogni's wife is called Kostbera.

Page 304, Line 10. The four-sheared shaft of the gathering. Morris found many references in Heimskringla; e.g. in Saga Libr. vol. III, pp. 176, 243, 292-3, 309, 310; vol. IV, pp. 46, 201, 316, 377) to rulers despatching (or as Morris translated it, shearing up) the war-arrow to summon men to go to war, or to their opponents sending it round the land to gather their fellows to resist such kings. His own description of the flitting of the war-arrow in The House of the Wolfings, Ch. II, in which a runner brings to their hall a shaft of battle and four-wise cloven through, each end dipped in blood, and its midmost scathed with the fire as a war-token may owe the details not clearly supplied in the sagas to Walter Scott's account, in The Lady of the Lake, Canto 3, of how a fiery cross, thus burnt and blood-dipped, is sent by runners round a Highland clan to assemble its members to fight. Scott's note XXVIII to that poem cites a Norwegian source telling how a staff was similarly despatched in Northern lands by relays to call up warriors.

Page 306, Line 25. With din of wedding joy-bells the minster steeple reels. Another simile drawn from a cultural ambience rather later than the heroic age of Volsung and Niblung.

Page 309, Line 7. None hath tethered the dragons. Volsunga Saga Ch. 36, as tr. by Morris, says that the Niblungs made their [single] ship fast But Byocks, tr. (p. 100) states that they did not secure their ships. Morris has perhaps corrected his original version in order to show his heroes recklessly leaving their ships to float away, as though going fey to their doom.


4. Atli speaks with the Niblungs. Morris has invented the ominous silence and emptiness of Atli's spacious city and its environs, and even of his feast hall, when his guests arrive: in Volsunga Saga, Ch. 37, the Niblungs, after Hogni has broken through the gates, at once see Atli's war host arrayed. (Presumably, the whole land has been stripped of men to produce the enormous host that will fight the Niblungs.) He has also replaced Atli's envoy's open threatening those guests, in Ch. 36, with the gallows, with an ironical explanation that the silence is a mark of respect, which does not save him from the death deserved by his treachery, though in Volsunga Saga it is all the Niblungs, not just Hogni, who slay him with their axes. (For Gudrun's attitude to her doomed brothers, see Intro. B.) Morris has also altered the encounter between the Giukung kings and Atli, cutting his demand for the gold as Gudrun's rightful possession and his desire to avenge Sigurd, and presenting him humbly entering as a swordless man and a little without the expected golden pomp of the Eastland king, (only displayed, after the fighting, on pp. 323-4, 338-9). Morris has also put some of their exchanges, esp. on p. 324 (as later on pp. 325, 327-8), in a way probably inspired by dialogues in the Eddic poems set out in alternating couplets or quatrains, in the stichomythic form used in Greek tragedy. Morris has also added the great shout of Atli's name by the concealed host of Huns and the answering sound of the Niblung trumpet.

Page 310, Line 29. No, not by a wandering God. Morris was not unfamiliar with Ancient Greek accounts, in Homer and elsewhere, of gods, in sometimes unrecognizable human shape, visiting mortals to assist or deceive them. To support the presence of similar beliefs among Northern peoples (cf. above, II. 3, and note thereon, and King Giuki's claim (p. 174 lines 8-11) that gods had visited unfeared the Niblung Burg) he might have instanced in Grimnismal (Bellows, Poetic Edda, pp. 84-106) Odin's disguised visit to King Geirrod's hall, with its (for that king) fatal result, or that god's coming, on the eve of the conversion of Norway, to talk with King Olaf, in Olaf Tryggvason's Saga, Ch. 64 (Saga Libr. Vol. III, pp. 314-16). Morris provided his own version of such an encounter in the visit of the aged, but noble divine ancestors to the Nordic King Host-lord in The Folk of the Mountain Door: Coll. Works, Vol. XXIV.

Page 311, Line 19. The halls of doom. Halls where judgment in lawsuits was given.

Page 312. Line 15. The ancient shapen stone. Presumably, a memory of the prehistoric standing stones that Morris might have seen on his travels, from his discovery during his schooldays of those at Avebury (Coll. Letters, Vol. I, pp. 6-7).

Page 314, Line 11. Great gifts for thee draw nigh. Gunnar (or Morris) has forgotten that the Niblungs ships, in which such gifts would have been carried, have been left to drift away.

Page 315, lines 27-29. When the fire shall burn up fooling. Another anticipation of the fire that will end the world at the last battle of the Gods.

5. Of the Battle in Atli's hall. Morris has invented most of the incidents of the fighting in his poem, including Gunnar's singing (preluding that at his eventual death) during the battle, and has ignored almost all those told in Volsunga Saga, Ch. 37-8, omitting not only (naturally) Gudrun's intervention to fight beside her brothers, but Atli's presence egging on his folk and his interchange of reproaches with Hogni. In Volsunga Saga, Ch. 38, too, Gunnar is captured before Hogni, not simultaneously. As noted in Intro. A, Morris follows the Nibelungenlied in putting all the fighting (which in Volsunga Saga, following the Eddic poems, starts out of doors) within the hall. It is Morris too who has stressed the great size of the Hunnish host: in Volsunga Saga, Ch. 38, Atli has 25 champions, of whom 19 are dead by the middle of the fighting, while Hogni later kills 20 more. Morris has also given an anonymous character to those attackers, especially at the end of the battle, when, all the trained Eastland warriors having perished, he brings in churls and thralls as the men who in a third wave of fighting secure Atli's victory. (Later the Socialist Morris would not thus have scorned common men who fought.)

Page 318, Line 4. Uprose as the ancient Giant. Possibly a reminiscence of the Giant Ymir from whose dismembered body the Eddic world was formed.

Page 318, Lines 25-27. That archer's skull .. Whom Atli had bought in the Southlands and the dark-skinned fell upon Gunnar. Is Morris imagining that Atli has reinforced his army by buying men from Black Africa?

Line 31. As the fire-tongue from the smoulder that the leafy heap hath nursed Cf. Millais's painting "Autumn Leaves" in Manchester City Art Gallery.

Page 321, Lines 7-16. Of the Gods and the making of man. In these lines, Morris assimilates the Eddic story of Creation and World Ending to that which he recalled from Christian tradition. The division and continuity of seasons recall Genesis, Ch. 1, v. 14-18, and 8, v. 21, while the contrast in line 14 of the last of the living and the first of the dead to arise suggests the Christian Last Judgement rather than any Nordic myth.

Line 16. God unto man shall pray. Is this a hint of Odin calling his chosen warriors to fight for him at Ragnarok, or a foretaste of Morris's later assumption, confirmed by Marxism, that religion is a human creation?

Page 322, Line 10. Men .. gnawed on their shield-rims. A habit ascribed to the frenzied Berserks when they fought: cf. Ynglinga Saga, Ch. 6; Saga of King Heidrek the Wise, ed. C. Tolkien (1960), p. 5. (Morris may also be recalling in these lines the last stand of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae in 480 B.C. when those without weapons fought on with their hands and teeth against overwhelming odds: see Herodotus, History, bk. vii, ch. 225.)

Page 322, Line 21. And still down rained the arrows. Perhaps a reminiscence of how at the battle of Hastings in 1066 the Anglo-Saxon shield wall was overcome by a hail of arrows from the Norman archers, as is vividly portrayed on the Bayeux Tapestry (section 68 onwards).

6. Of the Slaying of the Niblung Kings. How Morris has combined the contrasting versions of the slaying of Hogni and his substitute, the thrall, into a single narrative, removing inconsistencies in his sources in Volsunga Saga, Ch. 38, and the Eddic poems on which it is based, is discussed in Intro. C. The seven-days feast of triumph with which Atli entertains his people during the slaying (pp. 326-7) is Morris's invention, perhaps suggested by the funeral feast which in Volsunga Saga, Ch. 39, Gudrun holds for her brothers, with Atli present, on which Morris lays little emphasis (see pp. 339-40) in his next episode. Morris has also insisted, in a way not in Volsunga Saga, on the contrast between the Niblungs valour and the Huns insolent dastardy. Morris has also added Gunnar s wagon-journey to a snakepit deep in the desert, has his hands freed to play his harp (in Volsunga Saga he must use his toes), chosen the subject (the Creation of the World) of his last singing, and invented the names of the numerous serpents whom that singing puts to sleep, besides Gunnar's final affirmation of his heroic identity on pp. 350-1.

The account of the Creation given here, on pp. 334-6, though it begins, as in the traditional Norse myths, related in Snorri's Prose Edda, with the Gap of the Gaping, soon turns away from any close adherence to the anthropomorphic version (partly set out in Sketch), briefly following instead the more idealized one given in the Voluspa (st. 5-6) describing the origin of Sun, Moon, and Stars. Later Morris departs even from that version, almost omitting any reference to definite activity by the Eddic gods in shaping Middle Earth (though its plan is ascribed to them as Framers). He is accordingly able to exclude the more grotesque aspects of those myths. Instead, the world seems almost to develop unconsciously of itself through the action of natural forces, to which the gods simply assign names. Likewise, the original human twain, instead of being made out of trees, are found wandering on the earth speechless & and wan, as in Voluspa, st. 17--18, until the gods give them speech and power & . and deeds and the hope. Morris's Creation story here might be reckoned as a compromise between the dignified series of divine commands told in Genesis, Ch. 1, and the developing belief in evolution of his own time.

Page 324, Lines 18-20. The shield-hung ships & with their gaping heads of gold. A foreshadowing of the raids perpetrated, especially in the 9th century, by Viking warships with their dragon-headed prows on the trading centers of Western Europe.

Page 325, Line 12. When the dead from the sea shall arise. Another insertion, not derived from Norse myth, of a motif from the Christian Last Judgement.

Line 21. the God-loved Singer. [Not yet identified.]

Page 326, Line 19. Sons of the wise withal. These (unparticularised) sympathizers with Hogni, who later (pp. 329-30) delay his slaying, are Morris's invention.

Page 327, Line 24. Of Hogni that thou hast slaughtered. Possibly a relic of an earlier version of Morris's poem in which Hogni was killed before Atli spoke with Gunnar. Or perhaps Gunnar does not know that his brother is yet only in the pit and of death.

Page 329, Line 20. The night-slaying is as the murder. In the Nordic order of values, a killing concealed by darkness involved a murderous treachery that was not attached to one performed by the light of day.

Page 332, Line 18. Let it lie in the water once more. In Volsunga Saga, Ch. 38, Gunnar more clearly says that the Rhine river shall rule over the Gold, for Morris too open a hint to his captor.

Page 333, Line 9. The bitter battle round the God-kin over strong. It is in Homeric epic rather than Norse legends that gods occasionally take part in person in the battles of mortal warriors; unless Morris simply means by God-kin heroes descended from gods.

Page 333, Line 11. The wood of the thorns of battle. A kenning for spear points.

Line 16. They brought his harp to Gunnar. In Volsunga Saga, it is Gudrun who sends her brother a harp.

Page 334, Lines 20-1. The march of Odin's kings New-risen for play in the morning & that their hands may be deft in the end. An allusion to the custom of the heroes, gathered in Valhalla to defend the gods in their last battle, fighting daily among themselves to keep in practice. All the wounds inflicted in their combats are healed again when the day ends and they go to feast together.

Page 335, Line 4. The wind came down on the waters. Cf. Genesis, Ch. 1, v. 2.

Line 13. On the Thrones are the Powers that fashioned. Probably an allusion to the refrain that opens some stanzas in the first part of Voluspa, e.g. st. 6, 9, 25, where the gods seek their seats to take counsel on how to fashion the world.

Line 17. The House of Glory. i.e. Valhalla, and the Gods dwellings within it.

Line 18. They fashioned the Dwarf-kind. In Voluspa too, the dwarfs are made before human beings: st. 10-16:Bellows, Poetic Edda, pp. 6-8.

Page 336, Line 1. As the leaves of the trees Cf. Homer, Iliad, bk. VI, lines 146-8.

Page 336, Lines 15-16. Of the kin of the Serpent & the Midworld's ancient curse. The Midgard Worm that lies in the water encircling the world, and will break free to help destroy it.

Page 337, Lines 5-7. The Accuser & the dooming & the pleading. The suggestion of a judgment on the dead in which they must justify themselves against an Accuser is probably here of Classical Greek (cf, the judgment of Minos in Hades) or Christian derivation, rather than having a source in Nordic myth.

The death-shoon. In Gisli's Saga, Ch. 14 (tr. G. Johnson (1963), pp. 18-19, and note on p. 75) Hel-shoes are securely fastened to a dead man s feet, to ease his path to Valhall: cf. P. G. Foote & D. M. Wilson, The Viking Achievement (1971), p. 40. Perhaps they provided protection similar to that implied in the Scottish Lyke-Wake Dirge in which a spirit needs hosen and shoon to escape piercing by the thorns of Whinnie Muir (not a way station in the orthodox Christian afterlife).

7. The Ending of Gudrun. Morris's exclusion of Gudrun's slaying her children by Atli, and of Atli's fruitless indignation when she reveals how he has fed on them, which occupy much of Volsunga Saga, Ch. 39, is discussed in Intro. C. Morris has also cut her helper, Hogni's son Niblung; the final exchanges between wife and husband after she stabs him; and Gudrun's even fulfilling his request for a goodly funeral. He has also compressed events that seem in Volsunga Saga to occupy some time into a single day and night; has provided a continuing contrast of values in the concluding episode, with the golden sun of the roof-tree within Atli's hall (cf. p. 290, lines 21-2), an emblem of his pride, mimicking the true light of sun and moon as time passes in the outer heavens; and has extended the brief statement in Volsunga Saga that his slayers cast fire into the hall into a fiery pageant in which an insolently wealthy world that has abided too long meets a doom, such as Morris was soon to hope would overtake his own society.

Page 342, Lines 3-7. The sons of one mother's sorrow. In Voluspa, st. 45 the slaying of brother by brother, and among other close kinsmen (not mentioned at this point in Volsunga Saga), was a sign of the evil age before Ragnarok, to which the destruction of Atli's hall appears as a parallel. Morris may also have been influenced by Gudrun s telling Atli in Volsunga Saga, after she has run him through, that, in contrast to her happy days with Sigurd, she had often seen in his house that kin fought kin, and friend fought friend.

Page 343, Lines 2-11. Gudrun girded her raiment & away from the earth she leapt. In Volsunga Saga, Gudrun, definitely planning suicide by walking into the sea, more practically loads her arms with stones, but escapes the drowning which Morris mercifully concedes to her, to conclude his poem, because she must survive to suffer another misfortune in her daughter Swanhild's slaying, which Morris, as noted in Intro. A, has found a too remote extension of the tale.