Nibelungs - George Upton

Wieland the Smith

In olden times there lived at Santen on the Rhine a noble pair, Siegmund and Sieglind, King and Queen of Niderland, to whom late in life was born a son. They named the boy Siegfried, and he throve and grew apace, so that none could equal him for beauty or strength, and in all knightly sports and exercises he soon left far behind him the other lads of his age. Now, these were the days of heroes whose fame spread far and wide throughout the world. To listen to tales of their mighty deeds gave even more joy to the bold youth than the call of the hunting-horn or the sound of the battle-trumpet; while to forge good swords that, like the lions' teeth, should pierce through bone and sinew, seemed in truth to him a noble art.

One day his father, Siegmund the King, told to him the tale of Wieland the Smith.

The giant Wadi had a son whose evil fortune it was to be lame, wherefore he besought his father to let him become a smith. "For," said he, "since with such limbs as these it is plain I may do no knightly deeds, what better lot can be mine than to forge arms fit for heroes to wield?"

Now hast thou well spoken," replied Wadi, and forthwith took his son to Mime. Mime was the greatest smith in all Hunland, and he kept Wieland for three years and made him master of his art. Nor was this all; for, when the time was spent, his father sent him to two famous dwarfs who dwelt in the Kallova mountains. These dwarfs were possessed of marvellous strength and skill, and would not agree to take Wieland into their forge for a twelve-month save upon payment of a piece of gold.

At the end of the time Wadi came to fetch his son. But Wieland already surpassed the dwarfs in skill and cunning, and they would not let him go. They said to Wadi:

"Let thy son bide with us for yet another twelve-month, and thou shalt have back thy gold." But to this they craftily added that if by any chance he should not appear at the time appointed, Wieland's head must pay the forfeit. To this the giant agreed; but ere he set forth he spoke privately with his son, saying:

"For their own sake they will keep thee yet another year, and at the end thereof for envy they will slay thee. Nevertheless their evil designs shall avail them not. Three days before the time will I be here, but meanwhile that thou mayest not lack defense, take this sword. Be brave and fearless, and in I in thy hand it shall prove a sword of vengeance against the mighty dwarfs!

Then Wadi departed; whereupon his son drove the keen blade into the ground and hid all traces of it from the sharp eyes of the dwarfs.

Now Wieland plied his craft so lustily, that he wrought many good swords and pieces of armor, and the time went swiftly by. Three days before the end of the year came Wadi; but the mountain was shut fast, and being weary he lay down before it and slept. And as he slept the dwarfs came forth and spied him; whereat they loosened a great rock from the side of the mountain, so that it rolled down upon the giant, crushing and killing him. On the third day they brought Wieland forth from the mountain and made pretence to watch for Wadi's coming. But Wieland saw blood spots on the ground, and, looking about more closely, perceived one of his father's feet protruding from a mass of rock. Thereupon a frenzy of grief and rage seized him, and, thrusting his hands into the earth, he drew out the great sword the giant had left him. Meanwhile the dwarfs had fetched their own swords shouting:

"Now must thou die!" But at the sight before them they were stricken with fear, lest he might be a sorcerer and blast them with his magic.

Wieland gave them no time to recover, but rushed upon them fiercely, nor could all their skill avail against his fury. Although attacked from every side and forced to spring now this way, now that, to avoid their blows, he soon overcame and slew both his foes. Thereupon, after binding up his wounds, he brought out from the mountain a great store of gold, and, loading this, with all his tools, upon a horse, set out upon his journey northward.

At last he came to the sea. Here he felled a stout tree which grew by the shore, and artfully hollowed it so that it might hold him with his tools and treasure, closing it after from within, all save some small openings which he filled with glass. And when all was done he rolled himself, with the tree, into the water, and was borne away by the wind and waves.

Thus eighteen days went by and but little was left of his store of meat and honey, when at last the island of Jutland loomed near at hand. Now it chanced that some of the King's folk were fishing in the sea and they seized the tree-trunk and drew it to the land. When the King came to look at the strange craft he bade them cleave it asunder, but at this Wieland gave such a shout that all who heard were smitten with fear of the spirit dwelling within the tree,—for so they deemed him. Thereupon he opened the trunk himself and stepped forth, offering his service to the King; and the King, nothing loath to have such a follower, made him welcome. Henceforth he abode at the court.

Among Wieland's other duties was the care of the King's three best table-knives; and it chanced one day, after twelve months had passed, that the sharpest of the knives slipped from his hand and fell into the sea. He betook himself at once to the King's smith, Amilias, and finding no one in the forge, fell to work and made a new knife so like the lost one that none could tell it was not the same. Also he wrought a curious three-edged nail, and this he left upon the anvil. Scarcely had he gone when Amilias, the smith, returned, and great was his surprise to find so strange a thing upon his anvil, nor could he guess by whose hand it had been forged. Wieland laid the new knife upon the King's table as was his wont, nor did the King perceive the change. But to! as he cut his bread, the blade wellnigh pierced the board. Then the King swore that no other than Wieland, who had so skilfully fashioned the tree-boat, could have wrought such a knife, and Wieland confessed that this was so. Amilias, the smith, hearing this, was filled with envy and grew very wroth. He indignantly denied the truth of Wieland's words, and challenged him to a trial of skill.

"Now, forsooth, I will set ye the tasks," out-spoke the King. "Within the space of twelve moons thou, Amilias, shalt forge a helm and coat of mail, and thou, Wieland, a sword. But an thy sword cleave not Amilias's helm and mail at one stroke, then art thou held forsworn and for that thy head shall fall!"

Forthwith Amilias betook himself to his anvil. He labored early and late till he had wrought a suit of armor so strong and heavy that the champion who should wear it must needs have the strength of three men. But when half the year was gone not a blow had Wieland dealt with his hammer. The King warned him, and caused a forge to be built for him; yet again the months slipped by and he paid no heed to his task.

At length when it lacked but two months of the appointed time, he fell to work and in seven days had forged a sword. To test its keenness, he held it in a stream wherein some handfuls of loose wool had been thrown. As they drifted against the edge of the blade they were instantly severed; whereat the King was amazed and acknowledged that never yet had such a sword been seen. Nor did his wonder lessen when Wieland began to file the blade into small bits. These he welded together again and at the end of thirteen days a second sword was made even sharper than the first. It cut through a bunch of the floating wool full two feet thick when it had scarcely touched the edge; and the King pronounced the sword a priceless treasure.

Yet once again did Wieland file it into bits, and from the pieces in three more weeks forge a third sword. The blade, richly inlaid with gold, flashed like the lightning and would sever a hair that fell upon its edge, while the handle was set in curious fashion with precious stones. The King marvelled greatly at this wondrous feat, and would have kept the great sword, which was called Mimung, for himself; but Wieland hid it and soon made another for the King.

Meanwhile Amilias had wrought a second suit of armor still heavier and more massive than the first, and tried its strength with many weapons. But the keenest swords and heaviest battle-axes could scarce dent its surface, much less pierce or destroy it. Wherefore the smith awaited with calmness the day of the trial, never doubting he should win lime test.

At last the time was come. Amilias strode haughtily into the great hall, clad in his massive armor, the mighty helm upon his head, and soon was obliged to sit upon a stool, so oppressive was heir weight. Then came Wieland, and as he drew his great sword, the whole hall seemed filled with light. The King and all his chiefs formed a circle about the two smiths and again the King demanded: "Was it thou, Wieland, who did forge the knife?"

And again Wieland answered: "Of a truth, my lord, it was I."

Again, too, Amilias denied it, whereupon Wieland strode to his side, and flung his lying words back to him. But the smith only laughed a scornful laugh and said:

"Fool! Soon shall thy false head roll upon the ground and thereby prove me right!"

Hereupon the King gave the signal. Quick as thought the good sword Mimung flashed in the air, and descended so swiftly that none could mark its flight, cleaving Amilias in twain, through helm and head, mail and body, and even through the stool on which he sat. Then Wieland said to the smith:

"How feelest thou?"

And Amilias replied: "I feel as it were a stream of ice-cold water had been poured over my body."

"Shake thyself!" said Wieland; and Amilias shook himself, whereat, with a great crash down fell his two halves from the stool, one to the right, the other to the left.

"It was indeed thou that forged the knife," cried the King; "henceforth thou shalt be my master smith!"

And so it came to pass. Nor was there any in all the land to equal him for skill and cunning; and it mu that time Wieland was renowned as the greatest of all smiths.