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Wayland the Smith


King Nidung, ruler of Jutland, had one daughter and three sons. The oldest son, Otvin, was away and guarded the outposts of the country; the other two sons were still children.
One day the two boys came with their bows to the great smith Wayland and asked him to make arrows for them.
"Not today," the smith answered. "I don't have time; and besides, I can't work for you without the wish and consent of your father. If he lets me make the arrows for you, you may come again; but you must promise to do exactly as I tell you."
"What is that?" one of the boys asked.
"You must," said Wayland, "come on a day with fresh snow on the ground, and you must walk backwards all the way."
The children didn't mind walking backwards, so they promised.
The next morning when the children woke up, they saw snow on the ground. They were very happy and went to the smith. They remembered to walk backwards.
"Oh, Wayland, make us the arrows," they cried. "The king, our father, didn't mind."
But Wayland didn't want to make the children the arrows. The king wasn't very nice to him and treated him unjustly and cruelly. Wayland saw the opportunity for revenge now. With his mighty hammer he hit the two children on the head and killed them. Then he threw their bodies into a cave next to his workshop.
When the children did not return to the castle messengers went to look for them. When they came to the smith, Wayland said:
"The boys aren't here. I made arrows for them, so I think they went into the woods to shoot birds."
When the messengers were on their way back to the castle, they saw the footprints in the snow. The footprints pointed towards home, so the messengers thought that the children were back in the castle. But they were not there. So king Nidung sent his servants everywhere in the the country, but they didn't find the boys. "Maybe wild animals killed them," everybody thought.
When they stopped searching for the boys, Wayland took the dead bodies and used their bones to make goblets, mugs and pots for the king's table. He decorated them with silver and gold. The king liked them very much and he always used them when he had important guests.
A long time later, Badhild, the king's daughter, played with her friends in the garden and broke an expensive ring. It was a present from Nidung. She was very worried and afraid to tell her her father.
"You can take it to Wayland, the smith. He is very good, he can repair it," suggested one of her friends.
So Badhild gave the ring to her friend and asked her to take it to Wayland. But she came back with it.
"He will repair it only if the king's daughter herself comes to him," she said.
Badhild went immediately to Wayland. There Wayland gave her his own magic ring. The owner of the ring falls in love with the smith.
"You will keep this ring and be my wife for ever," said Wayland. The princess could not refuse, and so the two were married. They agreed to keep their marriage a secret.
Wayland had a brother. His name was Eigil and he was a famous man. The best bow-maker in the world. Once, Eigil went to Nidung for a visit. The king welcomed him, and asked him to stay for some time. One day Nidung said: "You are a good bowman. Can you shoot an apple from the head of your own son?"
"Of course," said Eigil.
"But you can try only once," the king said.
Eigil agreed, so they placed an apple on the head of his three-year-old son. Eigil, took his bow, aimed, and his arrow hit the apple in the centre.
The king liked Eigil more than in the past. The archer frequently visited his brother Wayland, and one day he saw Wayland embracing Badhild.
"You will be the mother of a boy – our child," he said to her. "Maybe I will go away from here and never see his face, but you must tell him that I made nice weapons for him and hid them in safety in the place where the water enters and the wind goes out (the forge)."
The next time Wayland saw Eigil he asked him to bring him a lot of feathers, large and small.
"I want to make a special kind of clothes," he explained. Eigil shot many birds and brought their feathers to Wayland. Wayland made a flying shirt. He looked more like an eagle than a man in the shirt. Eigil liked it and Wayland asked him to try it.
"I don't know how to fly," said Eigil.
"You must rise against the wind. First fly low and then high."
So Eigil did. But he had problems when he wanted to land. He fell hard to the ground, hit his head and lost consciousness. The smith then made a little change in the shirt. Then with Eigil's help he put on the feathers and started to fly. He landed on a tower of the castle and called down to Eigil.
"Now I am flying to talk to Nidung. And, remember our agreement. If he asks you to shoot me, shoot under the left wing, because there I have a container filled with blood."
With these words Wayland flew to the highest tower of the king's castle and called to the king.
"Are you a bird, Wayland?" asked the king.
"Sometimes I am a bird and sometimes a man," was the reply; "but now I am going away from here and you will never have me in your power again. You promised once to give me your daughter and the half of your kingdom, but you made fun of me. But now I will have my revenge. Do you know where your sons are?"
"My sons!" cried Nidung. "Oh, tell me what you know of them."
"I will tell you, but first you must swear to me that you will do no harm to my wife and child."
Nidung swore and Wayland began to talk:
"Go to my house, and there in the cave you will find the remains of your sons. I killed them, and made mugs of their bones for your table. And your daughter Badhild is my wife."
With these words he flew away. Nidung cried in anger:
"Eigil, shoot at Wayland!"
"I cannot, he is my own brother," replied Eigil.
"Shoot," cried the king, "or I will kill you!"
Then Eigil shot Wayland under his left arm. The blood coloured Wayland's body and everyone thought that the smith would die. But Wayland, unharmed, flew away to Zealand and made his home there in his father's land. Nidung, meantime, was sad and unhappy, and after some short time he died and Otvin, his son, became the king. People loved Otvin because he was just and kind. His sister Badhild lived with him in the palace, and there her son, Widge, was born.
One day Wayland sent messengers to Otvin and asked him for peace and pardon. Otvin agreed. Wayland travelled to Jutland again and was very glad to see his wife again and very proud of his three-year-old son. But he didn't want to live there. He returned to Zealand with Badhild and Widge, and there they lived happily for many years.

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Created by J. Brandecky, May 5, 2008.