Sigurd

Template:VlsungIn Norse mythology, Sigurd (also Siegfried) was a legendary hero, as well as the central character in the Volsunga saga, Nibelungenlied and Richard Wagner's opera, Siegfried, which see for more details.

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Sigurd.jpg
The Ramsund carving depicting Sigurd and the Saga of the Vlsungs

In the Volsunga Saga

In the Volsungsaga, Sigurd is the posthumous son of Sigmund and his second wife, Hjordis. Sigmund dies in battle when he attacks Odin, and Odin shatters Sigmund's sword. Dying, Sigmund tells Hjordis of her pregnancy and bequeaths the fragments of his sword to his unborn son.

Hjordis marries King Alf, and Alf sends Sigurd to Regin as a fosterling. Regin tempts Sigurd to greed and violence by first asking Sigurd if he has control over Sigmund's gold. When Sigurd says that Alf and his family control the gold and will give him anything he desires, Regin asks Sigurd why he consents to a lowly position at court. Sigurd replies that he is treated as an equal by the kings and can get anything he desires. Then Regin asks Sigurd why he acts as stableboy to the kings and has no horse of his own. Sigurd then goes to get a horse. An old man (Odin) advises Sigurd on choice of horse, and in this way Sigurd gets Grani, a horse derived from Odin's own Sleipnir.

Finally, Regin tempts Sigurd by telling him the story of the Otter's Gold. Regin's father was Hreidmar, and his brothers were Fafnir and Otr. Regin was a natural at smithing, and Otr was natural at swimming. Otr used to swim at Andvari's waterfall, where the dwarf Andvari lived. Andvari often assumed the form of a pike and swam in the pool. One day, the Aesir saw Otr with a fish on the banks, thought him an otter, and Loki killed him. They took the carcass to the nearby home of Hreidmar to display their catch. Hreidmar, Fafnir, and Regin seized the Aesir and demanded compensation for the death of Otr. The compensation was to stuff the body with gold and cover the skin with gold. Loki got the net from the sea giantess Ran, caught Andvari (as a pike), and demanded all of the dwarf's gold. Andvari gave the gold, except for a ring. Loki took this ring, too, although it carried a curse of death on its bearer. The Aesir stuffed Otr's body with gold and covered its skin in gold and covered the last exposed place (a whisker) with the ring of Andvari. Afterward, Fafnir killed Hreidmar and took the gold.

Sigurd agrees to kill Fafnir, who has become a dragon out of greed. Sigurd has Regin make him a sword, which he tests by striking the anvil. The sword shatters, so he has Regin make another. This also shatters. Finally, Sigurd has Regin make a sword out of the fragments that had been left to him by Sigmund. The resulting sword, Gram, cuts through the anvil. To kill Fafnir the dragon, Regin advises him to dig a pit, wait for Fafnir to walk over it, and then stab the dragon. An old man (Odin) advises Sigurd to dig several trenches also to drain the blood, and to bathe in it after killing the dragon; bathing in Fafnir's blood confers invulnerability. Sigurd does so and kills Fafnir; Sigurd then bathes in the dragon's blood, which touches all of his body except part of his shoulder where a leaf has stuck. Regin then asks Sigurd to give him Fafnir's heart. Sigurd tastes Fafnir's blood and gains the power to understand the language of birds. Birds advise him to kill Regin, since Regin is plotting Sigurd's death. Sigurd beheads Regin, roasts Fafnir's heart, and consumes part of it. This gives him the gift of "wisdom" (prophecy).

Sigurd met Brynhild, a "shieldmaiden," after killing Fafnir. She pledges herself to him but also prophecies his doom and marriage to another. (In Volsungsaga, it is not clear that Brynhild is a Valkyrie or in any way supernatural.)

Sigurd went to the court of Heimar, who was married to Bekkhild, sister of Brynhild, and then to the court of Gjuki, where he came to live. Gjuki had three sons and one daughter by his wife, Grimhild. The sons were Gunnar, Hogi, and Guttorm, and the daughter was Gudrun. Grimhild made an "Ale of Forgetfulness" to make Sigurd forget Brynhild, and he then married Gudrun. Later, Gunnar wanted to court Brynhild. Brynhild's bower was surrounded by flames, and she promised herself only to the man daring enough to go through them. Only Grani, Sigurd's horse, would do it, and only with Sigurd on it. Sigurd exchanged shapes with Gunnar, rode through the flames, and won Brynhild for Gunnar.

Some time later, Brynhild taunted Gudrun for having a better husband, and Gudrun explained all that had passed to Brynhild and explained the deception. For having been deceived and cheated of the husband she had desired, Brynhild plots revenge. First, she refuses to speak to anyone and withdraws. Eventually, Sigurd was sent by Gunnar to see what was wrong, and Brynhild accuses Sigurd of taking liberties with her. Gunnar and Hogi plot Sigurd's death and enchant their brother, Guttorm, to a frenzy to accomplish the deed. Guttorm kills Sigurd in bed, and Brynhild kills Sigurd's three year old son. Brynhild then wills herself to die, and a funeral pyre is built for Guttorm (killed by Sigurd), Sigurd, Brynhild, and Sigurd's son.

Sigurd and Brynhild had the daughter Aslaug who married Ragnar Lodbrok.

Use of the Legend

Not only were the elements of this story used by J.R.R. Tolkien in The Hobbit (the story of the cursed golden ring and the dwarven gold), but there are parallels in other legends (the sword Sigmund draws from Barnstock is similar to the sword drawn by Arthur from the stone). Additionally, the Norwegian royal family claimed derivation from Sigurd and the Volsungs. Furthermore, because dragons were seen as symbols of Satan in medieval typologies, the story of Sigurd slaying Fafnir was often depicted in Christian churches in Scandinavia.

See Also


Sigurd, also known as Siglud, is also a fictional character from Nintendo's Fire Emblem video game franchise, more specifically a Super Famicom game called Fire Emblem: Seisen no Keifu. See Sigurd (Fire Emblem).

da:Sigurd Fafnersbane es:Sigfried sv:Sigurd Fafnesbane fr:Siegfried ja:シグルズ

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