The Children of Odin The Book of Northern Myths
Page: 108Sigmund knew that his sister would send her son to help him. One morning there came to his hut a boy of ten years. He knew that this was one of Signy's sons, and that she[Pg 234] would have him train him into being a warrior worthy of the Volsung breed.
Sigmund hardly looked and hardly spoke to the lad. He was going hunting, and as he took down his spear from the wall he said:
"There is the mealbag, boy. Mix the meal and make the bread, and we will eat when I come back."
When he returned the bread was unmade, and the boy was standing watching the mealbag with widened eyes. "Thou didst not make the bread?" Sigmund said.
"Nay," said the boy, "I was afeard to go near the bag. Something stirred within it."
"Thou hast the heart of a mouse so to be frighted. Go back to thy mother and tell her that not in thee is the stuff for a Volsung warrior."
So Sigmund spoke, and the boy went away weeping.
A year later another son of Signy's came. As before Sigmund hardly looked at and hardly spoke to the boy. He said:
"There is the mealbag. Mix the meal and make ready the bread against the time I return."
When Sigmund came back the bread was unmade. The boy had shrunk away from where the bag was.
"Thou hast not made the bread?" Sigmund said.
"Nay," said the boy, "something stirred in the bag, and I was afeard."
"Thou hast the heart of a mouse. Get thee back to thy mother and tell her that there is not in thee the stuff for the making of a Volsung warrior."
And this boy, like his brother, went back weeping.[Pg 235]
At that time Signy had no other sons. But at last one was born to her, the child of a desperate thought. Him, too, when he was grown, she sent to Sigmund.
"What did thy mother say to thee?" Sigmund said to this boy when he showed himself at the hut.
"Nothing. She sewed my gloves to my hands and then bade me pull them off."
"And didst thou?"
"Aye, and the skin came with them."
"And didst thou weep?"
"A Volsung does not weep for such a thing."
Long did Sigmund look on the lad. He was tall and fair and great-limbed, and his eyes had no fear in them.
"What wouldst thou have me do for thee?" said the lad.
"There is the mealbag," Sigmund said. "Mix the meal and make the bread for me against the time I return."
When Sigmund came back the bread was baking on the coals. "What didst thou with the meal?" Sigmund asked.
"I mixed it. Something was in the meal—a serpent, I think—but I kneaded it with the meal, and now the serpent is baking on the coals."
Sigmund laughed and threw his arms around the boy. "Thou wilt not eat of that bread," he said. "Thou didst knead into it a venomous serpent."