Wayland the Smith

Franks CasketThe Anglo Saxon Runes and the Blacksmith -

The story of Wayland the Smith was as well known and popular as the epic poem of Beowulf himself. The hero's sword was made by Weland as was the mail shirt he wore (lines 450–455 of the epic poem) -

'No need then
to lament for long or lay out my body.
If the battle takes me, send back
this breast-webbing that Weland fashioned
and Hrethel gave me, to Lord Hygelac.
Fate goes ever as fate must'

The ancient legend was told thus -

Wayland 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 captured by the evil King of Sweden.
To prevent Wayland from escaping, the king ordered him to be hamstrung. (Hamstringing was a method of crippling a person or animal so that they cannot walk properly, by cutting the two large tendons at the back of the knees) The king then had Wayland fashion wonderful items for him and his family. But 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 then lured the king's daughter to his smithy, where he seduced her.
Wayland went to the King's hall and extracted a promise that he would never hurt Wayland's child. Then Wayland told him what the goblets really were, and what had happened to his daughter. The King could not in turn harm Wayland's son, now his heir, because of the promise he had given.

The ancient legend was depicted on The Franks Runic Casket, a carving made of whalebone kept in the British Museum. The casket which is one of the most outstanding objects from the Anglo Saxon days when runes or riddles were a potent means of communication -

Wayland was a source of wealth, who secured a protective and wise partner who helped her protégé through the troubles of life as he completed his revenge. Wealth augmented partnership, be it with a helpful wife, be it with universal emotions.
Rune - Wealth is comfort to a man; yet must he share it freely, if he wishes to gain honour in the sight of the Lord.

During the Viking Age in northern England, Wayland is depicted in his smithy, surrounded by his tools, at Halton, Lancashire.

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