Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas

Page: 139

And be more than the Kings of the earth? Wilt thou rid the earth of a wrong

And heal the woe and the sorrow my heart hath endured o’er long?’”

Sigurd’s Sword

Sigurd immediately assented, on the condition, however, that the curse should be assumed by Regin, who, also, in order to fitly equip the young man for the coming fight, should forge him a sword, which no blow could break. Twice Regin fashioned a marvellous weapon, but twice Sigurd broke it to pieces on the anvil. Then Sigurd bethought him of the broken fragments of Sigmund’s weapon which were treasured by his mother, and going to Hiordis he begged these from her; and either he or Regin forged from them a blade so strong that it divided the great anvil in two without being dinted, and whose temper was such that it neatly severed some wool floating gently upon the stream.

Sigurd and Fafnir

Sigurd and Fafnir

K. Dielitz

By Permission of the Berlin Photographic Co., 133 New Bond St., W.

Sigurd now went upon a farewell visit to Gripir, who, knowing the future, foretold every event in his coming career; after which he took leave of his mother, and accompanied by Regin set sail for the land of his fathers, vowing to slay the dragon when he had fulfilled his first duty, which was to avenge the death of Sigmund. [275]

“‘First wilt thou, prince,

Avenge thy father,

And for the wrongs of Eglymi

Wilt retaliate.

Thou wilt the cruel,

The sons of Hunding,

Boldly lay low:

Thou wilt have victory.’”

Lay of Sigurd Fafnicide (Thorpe’s tr.).

On his way to the land of the Volsungs a most marvellous sight was seen, for there came a man walking on the waters. Sigurd straightway took him on board his dragon ship, and the stranger, who gave his name as Feng or Fiöllnir, promised favourable winds. Also he taught Sigurd how to distinguish auspicious omens. In reality the old man was Odin or Hnikar, the wave-stiller, but Sigurd did not suspect his identity.

The Fight with the Dragon

Sigurd was entirely successful in his descent upon Lygni, whom he slew, together with many of his followers. He then departed from his reconquered kingdom and returned with Regin to slay Fafnir. Together they rode through the mountains, which ever rose higher and higher before them, until they came to a great tract of desert which Regin said was the haunt of Fafnir. Sigurd now rode on alone until he met a one-eyed stranger, who bade him dig trenches in the middle of the track along which the dragon daily dragged his slimy length to the river to quench his thirst, and to lie in wait in one of these until the monster passed over him, when he could thrust his sword straight into its heart.

Sigurd gratefully followed this counsel, and was [276]rewarded with complete success, for as the monster’s loathsome folds rolled overhead, he thrust his sword upward into its left breast, and as he sprang out of the trench the dragon lay gasping in the throes of death.

“Then all sank into silence, and the son of Sigmund stood

On the torn and furrowed desert by the pool of Fafnir’s blood,

And the Serpent lay before him, dead, chilly, dull, and grey;

And over the Glittering Heath fair shone the sun and the day,

And a light wind followed the sun and breathed o’er the fateful place,

As fresh as it furrows the sea-plain, or bows the acres’ face.”

Regin had prudently remained at a distance until all danger was past, but seeing that his foe was slain, he now came up. He was fearful lest the young hero should claim a reward, so he began to accuse him of having murdered his kin, but, with feigned magnanimity, he declared that instead of requiring life for life, in accordance with the custom of the North, he would consider it sufficient atonement if Sigurd would cut out the monster’s heart and roast it for him on a spit.

“Then Regin spake to Sigurd: ‘Of this slaying wilt thou be free?

Then gather thou fire together and roast the heart for me,

That I may eat it and live, and be thy master and more;

For therein was might and wisdom, and the grudged and hoarded lore:

—Or, else depart on thy ways afraid from the Glittering Heath.’”

Sigurd was aware that a true warrior never refused satisfaction of some kind to the kindred of the slain, so he agreed to the seemingly small proposal, and immediately prepared to act as cook, while Regin dozed until the meat was ready. After an interval Sigurd touched the roast to ascertain whether it were tender, [277]but burning his fingers severely, he instinctively thrust them into his mouth to allay the smart. No sooner had Fafnir’s blood thus touched his lips than he discovered, to his utter surprise, that he could understand the songs of the birds, many of which were already gathering round the carrion. Listening attentively, he found that they were telling how Regin meditated mischief against him, and how he ought to slay the old man and take the gold, which was his by right of conquest, after which he ought to partake of the heart and blood of the dragon. As this coincided with his own wishes, he slew the evil old man with a thrust of his sword and proceeded to eat and drink as the birds had suggested, reserving a small portion of Fafnir’s heart for future consumption. He then wandered off in search of the mighty hoard, and, after donning the Helmet of Dread, the hauberk of gold, and the ring Andvaranaut, and loading Greyfell with as much gold as he could carry, he sprang to the saddle and sat listening eagerly to the birds’ songs to know what his future course should be.

The Sleeping Warrior Maiden

Soon he heard of a warrior maiden fast asleep on a mountain and surrounded by a glittering barrier of flames, through which only the bravest of men could pass to arouse her.

“On the fell I know