Weland the Smith Bibliography (partially annotated)

This list was compiled in 2007.

Arngart, Olof. “The Hundred-Name Wayland.” Jnl of the Eng. Place-Name Soc. 12 (1979-80): 54-58.

Bradley, James.  “Sorcerer or Symbol?: Weland the Smith in Anglo-Saxon Sculpture and Verse.”  Pacific Coast Philology 25.1/2 (1990): 39-48. Bradley argues, contra Davidson, that the figure of Weland was probably not so closely linked with gods, barrows, and the supernatural in the Anglo-Saxon imagination, but had instead an instructive resonance for Christians.  In Alfred’s translation, Bradley claims, Weland is “a symbol of craftsmanship and a consoling image of permanence amid the flux and decay of earthly existence” (40).   His name, linked etymologically to creation and construction via an unattested proto-Germanic verb, is used “appellatively” in Anglo-Saxon verse to mean “cunning craftsman” (Gillespie qtd. in Bradley 41).  Bradley goes on to link the Weland myth with the Daedalus story and suggesting “literary borrowing from classical Greek legend” (42), citing features referred to (obliquely) in “Deor.”  The magical elements found in Weland legend are probably a result of Finnish influence and are not, Bradley asserts, present in the Anglo-Saxon literary tradition.  Therefore, “it is unwise . . . to read magical and other Norse elements” into the Weland story as it figured in the Anglo-Saxon tradition (43).  Instead, “the key to understanding the Christian Anglo-Saxon view of Weland is [his] reputation for craftsmanship in metal” (41), a skill that would have had spiritual resonance for Christians who, via Bede, figured themselves as “faithful treasurers of the Lord’s wealth, the artificers and smiths of spiritual jewels and ramparts . . . and the smiths of celestial weapons” (46).

Chaney, William.  Paganism to Christianity in Anglo-Saxon England.  The Harvard Theological Review 53 (1960): 197-217.

Christie, Janet.  “Reflections on the Legend of Weland the Smith.”  Folklore 80.4 (1969): 286-294.

Clark, George.  “Beowulf’s Armor.”  ELH 32 (1965): 409-441.

Crocker, Kyle Robert. “The Lame Smith: Parallel Features in the Myths of the Greek Hephaestus and the Teutonic Wayland.” Archaeol. News 6 (1977): 67-71, ill.

Davidson, H. R. Ellis.  “Weland the Smith.”  Folklore 69.3 (1958): 145-159.  Davidson begins by asking why Alfred, in his translation of Boethius, would have thought of Weland when he reached the passage about the bones of Fabricius.  Davidson finds two traditions about Weland dating from the Anglo-Saxon period: a literary tradition and an archaeological one.  She examines both, with recourse to Old Norse sources and collected folklore and archaeological material on sites associated with legendary smiths in British and Germanic traditions.  In delineating what can be pieced together of Weland’s mythological ancestry in Norse and Germanic sources, Davidson links Weland variously with legendary swords, giants, elves, swans, stone ruins, serpents, burial mounds, and sea-hags, offering a possible explanation for be wurman in Deor via this connection with supernatural sea-dwellers.  Furthermore, she makes a plausible case for connecting Welandes geweorc to enta geweorc, arguing for an association in the Anglo-Saxon imagination between the work of giants and the legends of the smiths.

“Deor.”  The Anglo-Saxon World: An Anthology. Ed. Kevin Crossley-Holland. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.  7-8.  “Deor,” one of the five Anglo-Saxon sources containing an overt reference to Weland, appears in this volume in translation. Weland appears only briefly and with very little context, which has turned out to be typical for his appearances in the Anglo-Saxon corpus.  In “Deor,” Weland is invoked in a complimentary light in the service of a lament for a scop’s lost happiness: the legendary smith is “that strong man” who “suffered much” when he was imprisoned by Nithhad (7).  One among a veritable catalog of famous sufferers, Weland is a figure of solace for the poet; as Weland’s suffering passed, so may the exile of the scop.

Fee, Christopher and David Leeming.  Gods, Heroes, and Kings: The Battle for Mythic Britain.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.  While the primary author is a professor of English, this book is written more for readability and as an introduction for the non-specialist undergraduate and the general public rather than for scholars of Old English.  The authors do not use footnotes or parenthetical citations; this would likely be unwieldy, as they “have taken the liberty of conflating material from a number of sources” in order to produce “readable” retellings of myths of Ancient Britain (ix).  While the text does provide a list of further reading and a general bibliography, researchers must already have a pretty good idea of where to look in order to match content to source.

The Franks Casket. 12 November 2007.  2007.  <http://www.franks-casket.de/>  A website maintained by Dr. Alfred Becker and available in German and English, this resource offers a collection of photographs of the various panels on the casket, including that portraying part of the story of Weland.  The home page contains a table of contents offering access to such sections as “Magic Worked with Runes and Numbers” and “Weland’s Saga Tradition.”  A quick skim of the page on runic magic appears to put forward a hypothesis on the numerology of the runic inscriptions and a “programme” for the magical intent of the carvings on the box as a whole.  Becker provides a list of links on his site, including some to the British Museum and the database of the Katholische Universität Eichstätt; however, as his links list also contains links to Wikipedia articles and a website by someone called “The Viking Answer Lady” (who, incidentally, cites her sources much more carefully than Dr. Becker), the page may be of interest to the non-specialist curious about theories of Anglo-Saxon numerological magic, but it is probably not the best starting place for scholarly inquiry.

“The Franks Casket.”  The British Museum. 1 December 2007.  <http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/pe_mla/t/the_franks_casket.aspx&gt; A search box on the homepage produced a page on the Franks Casket featuring several high-quality photographs, a summary of its origin and of the critical speculation as to its purpose, and a very brief bibliography of sources in several languages for the reader interested in reading more.  The site did not, however, provide any further information on the tradition of Weland, but the pictures were good and the site gave the location of the box in the British Museum should the interested student of Anglo-Saxon boxes ever find herself in the vicinity.

Grimstad, Kaaren. “The Revenge of Volundr.” Edda: a Collection of Essays. Ed. Robert J. Glendinning and Haraldur Bessason. University of Manitoba Icelandic Studies 4. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1983. 187-209.

Grinsell, L.V. “Wayland the Smith and His Relatives: A Legend and Its Topography.” Folklore 102 (1991): 235-236.

Klaeber, Fr., ed.  Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburg.  2nd ed.  Boston: D.C. Heath & Co. Publishers, 1922.  The standard scholarly edition of Beowulf in Old English, Klaeber’s edition contains the complete poem, abundant footnotes, and an extensive glossary.  Weland appears precisely once, in line 455.  Beowulf is preparing to fight Grendel and is giving instructions for the disposition of his belongings if he should die.  Hygelac is to have his mail shirt (beaduscrud, l. 453); it is notable because it was apparently inherited from Hrethel (Hrædlan laf, l. 454) and originally made by Weland (Welandes geweorc, l. 455). Unfortunately, the footnotes provide no further information.  Here, as elsewhere, it appears that the story was so well-known in Anglo-Saxon England that it needed no retelling.

Kopár, Lilla. “The Wings of Weland.” The Iconography of the Fantastic: Eastern and Western Traditions of European Iconography 2. Ed. Márta Baróti-Gaál, György E. Szőnyi, and Attila Kiss. Papers in English and American Studies 10 / Studia Poetica 11. Szeged: JATEPress, 2002. 39-48.

Kopár, Lilla. “Weland the Smith: Iconographic and Literary Sources from Anglo-Saxon England.” Proceedings from the 7th Nordic Conference on English Studies. Ed. Sanna-Kaisa Tanskanen and Brita Wårvik. Turku: University of Turku, 1999. 411-420. [= Anglicana Turkuensia 20]

Krapp, George Philip, ed. The Paris Psalter and the Meters of Boethius. New York : Columbia University, 1932.

Lang, James T. “Sigurd and Weland in Pre-Conquest Carving from Northern England.” Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 48 (1976): 83-94, ill.

“The Lay of Volund.”  The Poetic Edda.  Trans. Carolyne Larrington.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.  102-108. Volund (Weland) is here associated with elves and is a smith who can make precious objects not only out of metal, but out of teeth, bone, and human eyeballs (at least when angered).  A king entraps him and cripples him by cutting his hamstrings or tendons, but he has his revenge, killing the king’s sons and raping his daughter before he flies away in a jacket made of feathers.

Nedoma, Robert. “The Legend of Wayland in Deor.” ZAA 38 (1990): 129-45.

The Saga of Thidrek of Bern.  Trans. Edward R. Haymes. New York: Garland, 1988.

Tupper, Frederick.  “The Song of Deor.”  Modern Philology 9 (1911): 265-267.  This is so old that I’m certain someone has come along and tinkered with the argument (or else it’s considered a non-issue now).  However, at the time it was written, there was some mystery surrounding the interpretation or identity of the personages in lines 14-17 of “Deor.”  Taking up the mantle of snotty pedant, Tupper proceeds to explain, with relish, how obvious the correct interpretation is and how astonished he is that everyone has missed it.  He targets W.W. Lawrence, who in 1911 interpreted the poem’s mention of “Hilde” as referring to Hilde and Hedin but who could not account for the appellation “Geates” for Hedin.  Hild, Tupper asserts, is obviously the Beadohild of the second stanza, upon whom Weland fathered a child.  The miserable Geates, then, is Nithhad, the king that mutilated Weland’s legs, and the sorrow is not that of a lover for his woman but is that of a father for his dead sons.  It seems, though, that Crossley-Holland has emended the line “Þæt mæð Hilde” into a proper name, Mæðhilde, so I suspect there is a great deal more to this story, the translation tradition, and the analogues than I have been able to discover as of yet.

“Waldere.”  The Anglo-Saxon World: An Anthology. Ed. Kevin Crossley-Holland. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.  9-11.  Crossley-Holland’s anthology contains a translation of “Waldere,” one of the poems in which Weland appears, albeit briefly and with little context.  In the poem, Weland is the creator of Waldere’s sword Mimming, and we are told that his son (Nithhad’s grandson) is named Widia.

“Wayland Smith.”  The Volsunga Saga.  Trans. Eirikr Magnusson and William M. Morris. London: Norroena Society, 1906.  332-340.



  1. Karma said,

    Since this page still gets the occasional hit from those interested in Weland the Smith, I’ve put up a photo of a Neolithic long barrow that came to be called Wayland’s Smithy in medieval England. https://ealuscerwen.wordpress.com/2010/08/02/waylands-smithy/

  2. Wayland’s Smithy « Slouching Towards Extimacy said,

    […] I visited Wayland’s Smithy in Oxfordshire, near Uffington Castle and the White Horse.  It was definitely not an easy trip to make via public transportation and with my deplorable land navigation skills, but I made it.  I think we did about a 14 mile hike all told, including a sprint to the bus station to get the last bus out of Swindon for the night.  My teenage daughter reached remarkable heights (or depths) with the profanity and surliness that she hurled at us all day as we traipsed up hills, climbed all round the hill fort and White Horse, and had a picnic at the Smithy.  So now I have a picture to go with my annotated bibliography. […]

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