Sunday, 25 March 2012

Myths, Legends & Folklore: Sigmund and Sinfjotli

The following is a story about Sigmund and his son Sinfjotli putting on wolf skins, thus transforming into wolves. It is part of the 13th century Icelandic prose work, Völsunga saga, which tells of the origin and decline of the legendary Völsung clan.

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Sigmund and Sinfjotli, father and son, set out into the woods for hunting. In the heart of the woods, they came across an abandoned hut where, apart for hunting equipment, they found two wolf skins. While Sigmund searched for the owners of the hut, Sinfjotli put on one of the skins to frighten his father. Suddenly, however, he realised that he is not able to take it off and that he is turning into a wolf. The father, wanting to find out what happened to his son, also put on the skin and became a wolf.

Then, Sigmund and Sinfjotli ran off into the woods in the form of wolves. After some time, they came across a human trail which led them to two huntsmen, most probably the owners of the hut, asleep next to a campfire. They attacked, killed and devoured them whole.

For many months the two wolves roamed the vicinity murdering travellers, peasants and foresters until one time after a successful hunt Sinfjotli tried to attack his father to shoo him away from the prey. Sigmund bit his son in self-defence, but the moment he did it, he regained consciousness and remembered that they were, in fact, human beings and that the other wolf was his own son. He went, therefore, to the other wolf and started licking his wound. Then, suddenly, the wolf skins fell off of the two men and they became human again. Having regained their former shapes, they decided to burn the skins which had nearly deprived them of their humanity.

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