April Lesson

This month we will focus on one of the heroes of Norse Mythology: Sigurd Fafnirsbane.

One day when Odin, Loki and Hoener were travelling, they came to a river where an otter was eating a salmon it had just caught. Loki threw a stone at it and killed it. Loki bragged about catching an otter and a salmon with one throw. They brought their catch with them and arrived at a cottage. They asked the owner Hreidmar if they could stay for the night, and offered to share their catch with him and his sons. But when Hreidmar saw the otter he told his sons Fafnir and Regin that Loki had in fact killed their brother Otr (who could transform into an otter). They bound Odin, Loki and Hoener and were thinking of a punishment. But Odin asked how they could make up this mistake, so Hreidmar told them everything would be forgotten if they filled the otter skin with gold.

Odin sent Loki to Svartalfheim. In a river Loki found a dwarf called Andvari who had transformed into a fish. Loki caught him and threatened to kill him if he didn’t give Loki all of his gold. Andvari agreed and gave all his gold to Loki. But Andvari kept one golden ring hidden in his hand. He asked Loki if he could keep it because the ring would help him to become rich again (it was a magical ring that brought wealth to its owner). But Loki took the ring too and left. Andvari put a curse on the ring, saying that the ring would bring death to every man who possessed it.

Loki returned to the home of Hreidmar, filled the otter skin with all the gold and told Hreidmar of the curse that was put upon the ring. Hreidmar didn’t care about the curse, but was happy with the golden treasure and let Odin, Loki and Hoener leave as free men.

Fafnir and Regin asked their father to split the treasure between the three of them, but Hreidmar said he would keep all of it to himself. Without hesitation, Fafnir and Regin killed their father to get their hands on the gold. Now Regin demanded that they split the treasure equally between them – but Fafnir accused Regin for being the one to kill their father just to get the treasure, and told Regin to leave. Fafnir had better armour and better weapons, so Regin decided it would be wiser of him to leave the treasure behind and flee, instead of fighting for the gold.

Fafnir took his treasure and moved to Gnitaheid where he transformed into a snake or a dragon (depending on which version of the story you read). Regin became a king’s blacksmith, and the foster parent of Sigurd son of Sigmund.

Regin often told Sigurd about Fafnir and his treasure, and said that Sigurd should try and take the treasure from Fafnir. Regin forged the sharpest sword ever seen to aid Sigurd in his quest. They travelled to the lake at Gnitaheid where Fafnir used to drink, and Regin told Sigurd to dig a deep pit where he could lie waiting for Fafnir and stab him in his belly. Regin hid some distance from the lake.

While Sigurd was digging, an old man approached him. The man adviced Sigurd to dig several pits, to avoid drowning in the blood from the dying dragon. Sigurd did as he was told, and then hid in one of the pits. After a while Fafnir came down to the lake to drink. Sigurd stabbed him in the belly as planned, and Fafnir died while spitting venom and thrashing about, crushing everything that came in his way.

Regin asked Sigurd to get the heart of Fafnir, since Fafnir was his brother. Sigurd agreed; after all, he would get the treasure. Regin drank some of Fafnir’s blood and went to sleep while Sigurd roasted the heart of Fafnir. But when Sigurd tried the heart to see if it was done well enough, the froth covering it burned him badly, and he put his fingers in his mouth. That way, he tasted the blood of Fafnir and suddenly understood the language of birds. In a close-by tree some birds were discussing him and Regin. They said that Sigurd was stupid not to eat the heart himself and gain wisdom, and that he was stupid to trust Regin who would kill him in the morning. Sigurd quickly killed Regin and took the treasure from Fafnir’s lair.

Sigurd became very famous for killing Fafnir, and was given the surname Fafnirsbane. But not even Sigurd was able to avoid the curse of Andvari’s ring, and he also met an untimely death.

Sigurd kills Fafnir
Sigurd kills Fafnir.


Stora boken om vikingarnas gudar och myter by Lars Magnar Enoksen (ISBN 978-91-7738-792-3)