Wayland (or Weyland/Volundr/Volund/Vulcan) the Smith was the son of the sea giant Wate and the sea nymph Wac-hilt. He was bound apprentice to Mimi the Smith and became a skilled metalworker. Wayland and his two brothers lived for seven years with three swan-princesses. The brothers are said to have found the princesses sunning themselves without their swan coats. The brothers stole the coats and hid them, forcing the princesses to remain as human women. When one day the swan-princesses vanished, Wayland's brothers set out to look for them, but Wayland remained behind and was soon captured by the evil King Nidung (or Nithun/Nidud) of Sweden.

To prevent Wayland from escaping, Nidung ordered his men to cut the sinews of Wayland's leg. The king had Wayland fashion wonderful items for him and his family. Eventually Wayland took his revenge by luring the king's two sons to his smithy, where he killed them and turned their skulls into drinking goblets, which he gave to the king. He made their eyes into beautiful jewels which were presented to the queen. He then lured the king's daughter to his smithy, where he seduced her. While she slept, Wayland flew off using swan-feather wings he had made (or stolen)

Wayland flew over King Nidung's hall and extracted a promise that he would never hurt Wayland's child. Then Wayland him what the goblets and jewels really were, and what had happened to his daughter, then flew off. King Nidung could not in turn harm Wayland's son, now his heir, because of the promise he had given.

Wayland on the Franks Casket
Wayland (far right) working in his smithy while his brother Egil is fighting.
Panel from the Franks Casket in the British Museum.
There is a legend associated with Wayland's brother, Egil the archer, which is very similar to the William Tell story. During Wayland's escape, King Nidung commanded Egil to shoot his brother down. Egil took two arrows from his quiver, the straightest and sharpest that he could find. With the first arrow, he pierced a sack of blood which Wayland had concealed, and Nidung believed the smith had died. But when asked by the king why he took two arrows, the archer replied "to shoot thee, tyrant, with the second if the first one harmed my brother."

There is a local tradition about Waylands Smithy and travellers along the ancient Ridgeway nearby. It says that a traveller whose horse had lost a shoe could leave the animal and a small silver coin (either a groat or a sixpence, accounts vary) at the Smithy overnight. When he returned in the morning he would find the money gone and the horse re-shod.
Another local tale says that Wayland had an apprentice called Flibbertigibbet who greatly exasperated his master. Eventually Wayland lifted the boy and hurled him as far away as he could, down into the Vale. Where Flibbertigibbet landed he remained, petrified. The stone became a boundary marker and remains to this day in a field called Snivelling Corner by Odstone Farm.


The full story of Wayland and his brothers is told in the poem
'Volundarkvitha'

which forms part of the Poetic Edda.

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