Böðvildr, Beadohilde, Bodil was the princess of an evil king Níðuðr/Niðhad/Niðung who appears in Germanic legends, such as Deor, Völundarkviða and Þiðrekssaga. Initially, she appears to have been a tragic victim of Wayland the smith's revenge on her father, but in later Scandinavian versions, she had a happy ending as Wayland's wife and as the mother of the hero Viðga of the Þiðrekssaga and medieval Scandinavian ballads.
Although preceded by the Ardre image stone, the oldest surviving textual source on her is the 10th century Anglo-Saxon poem Deor. It deals with the fact that Wayland has just murdered her brothers and raped her. It is suggested by the poet that things will turn out bad for her:
In Völundarkviða, she appears when her father Níðuðr has captured Wayland, and she receives from her father a gold ring that the smith had made for his lost Valkyrie lover. Wayland is hamstrung and put to work in her father's smithy.
Wayland has revenge by murdering her brothers and hiding them in the smithy. He then set their skulls in silver and sent them to the king together with jewelry for the queen made by the boys' eyes. For Böðvildr he made a brooch of the boys' teeth.
Böðvildr visited Wayland's smithy to ask him to mend a broken ring. Then, he raped her and flew away in a feather construction he had made, leaving her crying with shame:
Wayland, then flies to her father telling him of his revenge. The sorrow stricken king asks his thrall to go and fetch his daughter and Böðvildr has to tell her father the gruesome truth mirroring the tragedy told of in Deor:
The 13th century Þiðrekssaga has a fuller account in prose, where the ending is more that of a happy one.
Wayland sailed to Denmark in a hollowed tree and eventually arrived to Jutland, where king Niðung was reigning. Wayland was soon challenged by Niðung's smith Amilias. Amilias forged a suit of armour and Wayland a sword, Mímung, with which he easily killed his rival. He thus gained great fame as a smith.
At the eve of a battle, Niðung found out that he had forgotten his victory stone and offered Böðvildr and half of his kingdom to the one who would get it before sunset. Wayland fetched the stone but, when he came back, the king's dróttseti (seneschal) asked for it. Wayland refused to give it up and killed the knight. Niðung banished him.
Later he tried to avenge himself by poisoning the king and Böðvildr but he got caught, was hamstrung and set to work in the forge. But he eventually killed Niðung's two younger sons in his smithy and made a whole set of tableware for the king with their bones. He also raped Böðvildr.
Wayland's brother Egill came at the court. He was a famous archer and Niðung challenged him to shoot an apple from the head of his son. He could shoot only one arrow, but took three. After he succeeded with his first arrow, the king asked him what the other two were for, and he explained that had he hit his son, he would have shot the king with the others.
Wayland asked his brother to collect feathers, with which he made himself wings. He flew to Niðung and revealed to him that he had killed his sons and made his daughter pregnant. He then flew away. Egill was ordered by the king to shoot him down. But Wayland had tied a bladder filled with blood under his arm. Egill hit it, thus deceiving the king, and Wayland returned to Zealand.
Niðung died shortly after and his son Otvin succeeded him. The princess gave birth to a son called Viðga. Wayland settled a peace agreement with Otvin and he married Böðvildr, as they both had agreed before his leaving.
In England according to legend a Burial Mound on The Berkshire Downs not far from Waylands Smithy according to legend this was Beadohildes Barrow, The mound has now disappeared, but was apparently excavated in 1850 when a jet ornament, a Kimmeridge ring and a bronze pin were recovered, From this it dated back to The Iron Age with suggestion that Beadohilde may have been a real person rather than being part of Folklore and Legend.
Notes and references
- Austin Simmons, The Cipherment of the Franks Casket (PDF) Beadohilde is twice depicted on the front side of the Franks Casket.