30 DoA #4: Favorite Myth

Valkyries with Swan Skins by Jenny Nyström (1893)

4. A favorite myth or myths of this deity. Well, since there is really only one known myth for Wayland, namely the aforementioned Völundarkviða, or Lay of Völundr, it kinda limits the options as to which story can be my favorite. Still, there are certainly parts of the tale that I favor over others.

If this story can be summed up in two words, they would be “devotion” and “patience.” Devotion to love and devotion to revenge. Patience for craftsmanship and patience for freedom. The story shows how these qualities can be light or dark, depending on circumstance. Love brings out Wayland’s finer sider in the first half of the story; while his brothers go off in search of their wives, he waits, knowing Hervor will come back to him, and crafting rings to gift her upon her return. Retribution stokes the Smith’s fires in the second portion, leading him not just to devise a means of escape, but to end his captor’s family line and replace it with his own. Wayland plays the long game here, knowing his vengeance will eat at the king for the rest of Nithung’s life–a far more brutal revenge than simply slaying his captor.

So, while I am really not a big fan of rape and murder to avenge oneself, the dedication with which Wayland sets about his task is exactly the same dedication he applied to the 700 rings that he made while waiting for his Swan to return. The danger of his temper lies not in the sparks that occasionally fly, but in the unwavering heat of its heart.

Through both sun and shadow, Wayland is a steady god, as steady as the glowing coals of his forge. It is that constancy that first drew me to him, and perhaps why he remains with me despite my own wanderings over the years. He tale is one of warning–not simply that one shouldn’t maim a person and enslave them to make precious objects for you (’cause you might find your kids’ skulls turned into cups)–but because of how our own gifts can be turned to dark and twisted purposes if we’re not careful.

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