A common theme among the three epics, “The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki” translated by Jesse L. Byock,” The Saga of the Volsungs: The Norse Epic of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer” translated by Jesse L. Byock, and “Beowulf” translated by R.M. Liuzza, is the desire for getting vengeance on the people who murdered their family and hurt them. Signy and Grendel’s Mother wanted vengeance for their family killed, but Queen Olaf wanted revenge on King Helgi for what he had done to her. Signy; Grendel’s Mother; and Queen Olaf; each has their tactic for getting vengeance on the people who have hurt them.
In Saga of the Volsungs, Signy wanted to avenge the deaths of her father and her 8 younger brothers. Her desire for vengeance started when her husband Siggeir, wanted to take revenge on Signy’s family. He wanted revenge because of Signy’s twin brother drawing the sword. Sigmund drew the sword, Which Odin Brandished and thrust into Bernstock. After Sigmund drew the sword, Siggeir offered to pay triple the sword’s weight in gold. Sigmund responded to Siggeir, “You could have taken this sword from where it stood, no less than I did if it were meant for you to carry it; but now that it has come first into my hands, you will never obtain it, even should you offer me all the gold you own.” (Volsungs Pg.39) The next opportunity Signy’s father and brothers traveled to Gautland, her father was killed, her brothers were held as prisoners, and For nine nights in a row, a she-wolf individually killed them. All but one of Signy’s brothers died. Her twin brother, Sigurd, was the only survivor of Siggeir’s vengeance.
Signy had four sons from Siggeir, and a son from Sigmund named Sinfjotli. Sending her 2 older sons to her brother, to assess them if they would conduct Signy’s plot of revenge, but they did not pass. The only son who passed was Sinfjotli. Signy helped them and supplied them with the tools they need to escape and start a fire. Signy conducted revenge on Siggeir through Sigmund and Sinfjotli, but she felt guilty for having her children killed. “I had our children killed when I thought them too slow in avenging our father, and I came to you in the forest in the shape of a sorceress, and Sinfjotli is our son… I have worked so hard to bring about vengeance that I am by no means fit to live.” (Volsungs pg.47) Though Signy conducted getting revenge on Siggeir, she grieved over the things she did to play out her vengeance. Signy took an approach of acting behind the scenes.
In Beowulf Grendel’s mother desired vengeance for her son’s death. Grendel’s mother was not as strong as her son but motivated by getting vengeance for her sons’ death. Grendel’s mother comes to Heorot while they slept and she devours Aeschere, the beloved thane of Hrothgar. She also takes Grendel’s arm with her as she returns to her moor. At the moor Beowulf and the thanes see the Bloodied lake and Aeschere’s head.
Beowulf reaches the place where Grendel’s mother is waiting. As she tries to grab him and hurt him, but this armor protects him. He then strikes her with his sword, but he soon realizes that his sword does not work against her. Beowulf swung Grendel’s mother to the ground, but she quickly shifted it around. “She set upon her hall-guest and drew her knife, broad, bright-edged; she would avenge her boy, her only offspring.” (Beowulf lines 1545-1546) His armor defends him and prevent her blade from piercing him. In the end Beowulf cut her neck and killed her. He brought the head of Grendel and the melted sword that killed his mother as a trophy. Grendel’s mother’s approach to conducting her revenge was brutal and animal-like. She had no mercy, but in the end, she died without taking vengeance.
In The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki, Queen Olaf who ruled over Saxland, had a cruel and deceitful way of taking revenge. Olaf not only deceived King Helgi but she also deceived her daughter Yrsa. The reason for her revenge was, King Helgi wanted to marry her. King Helgi heard about her and he thought that if he married her, he would increase his fame and importance. They drank together, when King Helgi was asleep, she took advantage of his state. She put a sleep thorn in his hear, shaved off his hair, and smeared tar on him. Helgi retaliated by having one of her slaves get her into the forest. Helgi took her hostage until he was pleased. When Helgi let her go and continued his journey. Olaf gave birth to a daughter and named her Yrsa.
Thirteen years later Helgi returned in disguised as a beggar. Helgi met Yrsa and took her back with him to his kingdom. When Olaf learned of what happened she acted deceitfully. “In Public she pretended to have no knowledge of the situation. In her private thoughts, however, she calculated that these events would bring grief and dishonor to King Helgi and that neither joy would come to them.” (King Hrolf Kraki pg. 16) In the end when Yrsa and King Helgi were happy and content, Olaf told Yrsa that the man she loved and married is her father. Yrsa was unable to get married and King Helgi suffered greatly that he grew depressed. Queen Olaf had been deceitful to get her revenge. She involved her daughter, who had no blame for what happened. She destroyed their happiness and did not have any guilt for what she had done.
All three of these women wanted vengeance. One succeeded but felt guilty for what she had done. One acted recklessly and achieved nothing but her own death, and the third one got vengeance, but she did not think of anything but revenge. She was ruthless and cruel, not caring about anyone else. Signy and Grendel were fighting to avenge their family, but Olaf fought for herself. These three characters had the same goal but took different approaches in how to avenge what they lost.
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