Myths, legends of ancient world

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Retold by Jenny Bennett

 Sinfjolti, the third son of Queen Signy of Gothland, surveyed his opponent from head to foot.  He was at least sixteen, with a powerful form and thick arm muscles and he was far bigger than any of the boys he had fought before.

The young prince straightened himself up and thrust out his chest. He knew the queen was watching from her window as she always did. He could not disappoint her. He had to win.

Gritting his teeth, Prince Sinjolti darted forward and soon the boys were lost in a tangled mass of limbs and dust. Groans and the thud of blows filled the air.

Before long, the older youth was pinned to the ground, gasping for breath and the instructor stepped forward to pull the young prince off of his opponent.  Sinfjolti dusted himself and turned to raise his face to his mother’s window.

There was a blackening ring around one eye, but there was a smile on his face. At the window, the queen nodded once and then turned away. Sinfjolti’s smile widened. Mother approved. He had not failed her.

He watched the instructor help the older boy to his feet and bowed politely to them both before turning away and making his way to the stables.  It was time for his evening ride.

“My prince!” It was the old slave, Bredi.

“What do you want?” Sinfjolti asked with undisguised annoyance. He was in a hurry.

“I beg your pardon, Prince Sinfjolti,” the old man said, bowing low. “But the queen wishes to speak with you.”

The boy suppressed a sigh and nodded quickly before following the old man into the castle.

Queen Signy was still beside the window when Sinfjolti entered.  She did not turn.

“You sent for me, Mother?” the child asked.

“Do you know what tomorrow is, Sinfjolti?” the Queen asked.

“Yes, your majesty,” the prince replied. “It is my ninth birthday.”

The Queen turned to look at the boy for a while without speaking, then, sitting down upon a bench, she beckoned him to her side.

“Do you remember the journey that I told you of?” the Queen asked quietly. 

“The journey you said I would take after my tenth winter?”

“Yes, Sinfjolti,” she replied. “But we will not need to wait another year, for you are ready now.”

“Then must I leave you, Mother?” the boy asked, looking up into the Queen’s eyes.

“Yes, my son,” Queen Signy replied. “Tonight you will make the journey that your two older brothers made before you. Do you remember what I told you about them?”

“They were weak and lacked courage,” the prince recited. “And so they failed Uncle Sigmund’s test. They were not worthy of the name of Volsung or of life.”

“And you, my Sinfjolti,” the Queen said slowly. “Are as different from them as night is from day. You are, in my eyes, a true Volsung. But my brother alone must decide if you are worthy of the task that lies ahead. Like the others, you too will be tested…”

“Don’t worry mother,” the boy said, taking the queen’s hand. “I will not fail like the others did. I will make you proud.”

The Queen sighed and lowered her head.

“What is the matter, mother?’

“When you leave tomorrow, “ the queen began. “Even if you pass my brother’s test, I will not see you again until you return to bring the wrath of Volsung down upon King Siggier and his household. You will be a man then…”

“The years will pass quickly, mother,” the young prince replied gently. “Before you know it, my uncle and I will storm this castle and make Siggier pay for the murder of Volsung and his nine sons and to free you from him. Then together, we can take back Hunland from the usurper who rules it now and my uncle will at last wear the crown of his father Volsung.” 

The Queen smiled then nodded and got to her feet. She had taught the boy well. 

“Come to my chambers an hour before midnight and I will prepare you for your journey,” she said.  “I must make sure that you truly are ready before I send you to Sigmund’s den.”

Sinfjolti bowed and hurried off to the stables to bid farewell to his horses. Hours later, the boy stood before his mother once again, dressed in a warm cloak and with his bow and quiver strapped to his back. 

“I have made you new gloves for your journey,” the Queen said. “Let me help you put them on.”

“They are a bit loose, mother,” the boy chuckled looking at the gloves on his hands. “But I can wear them when I am a little bit older.”

The queen smiled knowingly.

“No, my boy,” she said. “Keep them on and I will tighten them up with a bit of thread.” Saying this, the queen threaded a needle and took one of the prince’s gloved hands. Watching the boy’s face closely, Signy began to sew the glove tighter around the boy’s wrist.

In went the needle, piercing both cloth and flesh, but the boy did not groan or even wince. On and on danced the needle until the thread and glove turned red with the child’s blood. But still the prince stood, his face composed and his eyes watching his mother calmly. This was her way of testing his courage and his ability to bear pain. He would not disappoint her.

At last, the queen straightened up and smiled proudly.

“It seems, Sinfjolti, “ she said. “That I have sewn the cloth to your skin. How is it that you did not wince or cry out for me to stop?”

“My ancestor Volsung would never had felt such a little sting as this,” Prince Sinfjolti replied boldly.

“Well you cannot have a glove that is stuck to your flesh,” Signy told him. “So I must take it off.”

“Go right ahead, mother,” the prince said bravely, then watched without a sound as the Queen tore the glove from his skin, leaving a jagged line of torn flesh about his wrist.

With the glove in her hand, the Queen smiled at her son with pride in her eyes.

“You are ready, my child,” she said, embracing him. “Now you can begin your journey to the secret den of my brother.”

What would become of Prince Sinfjolti, the son of Signy? Would he find his uncle’s home in the forest? And would he pass Sigmund’s test or fail it like his two brothers had before him? We will find out next time…


*Based on the Volsunga Saga

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