THE SWORD GRAM AND THE DRAGON FAFNIR

Mounted on his proud horse Grani, Sigurd rode to the hall and showed himself to Alv, the King, and to Hiordis, his mother. In front of the hall he shouted out the Volsung name, and King Alv felt as he watched him that this youth was a match for a score of men, and Hiordis, his mother, saw the blue flame of his eyes and thought to herself that his way through the world would be like the way of the eagle through the air.

Having shown himself before the Hall, Sigurd dismounted from Grani, and stroked and caressed him with his hands and told him that he could go back to the herd. The proud horse happily galloped away.

Then Sigurd strode on until he came to the hut in the forest where he worked with the cunning smith Regin. No one was in the hut when he entered but over the anvil, in the smoke of the smithy fire, there was some of Regin’s work. Sigurd looked at it, and a hatred for what he saw rose up in him.

Regin’s work was a great shield of iron. Hammered out on that shield and colored with red and brown colors was the image of, a Dragon emerging from a cave. Sigurd thought it was the image of the most hateful thing in the world, and the light of the smithy fire falling on it, and the smoke of the smithy fire rising round it, made it seem really like a Dragon.

While he was still gazing at the hateful image, Regin, the cunning smith, came into the smithy. He stood by the wall and watched Sigurd. His back was bent ,his hair fell over his fiery eyes and he looked like a beast.

“You see Fafnir the Dragon, son of the Volsungs,” he said to Sigurd. “Maybe it is you who will kill him.”

“I would not fight with such a beast. He is so horrible,” Sigurd said.

“With a good sword you could kill him and win for yourself more fame than any of your forefather had,” Regin whispered.

“I shall win fame as my fathers won fame, in battle with men and in conquest of kingdoms,” Sigurd said.

“You are not a true Volsung or you would gladly go where the  most danger and fear is,” said Regin. “You have heard of Fafnir the Dragon, whose image I have made here. If you ride to the top of the hills you can look across to the desolate land where Fafnir has his lair. It was once a fair land where men had peace and prosperity, but Fafnir came and made his home in a cave nearby, and his breathe as he went to and came from the River withered up the land and made it the barren wasteland that men called Gnita Heath. Now, if you are a true Volsung, you will kill the Dragon, and let that land become fair again, and bring the people back to it and so add to King Alv’s kingdom.”

“I will have nothing to do with the killing of Dragons,” Sigurd said. “I have to make war on King Lygni, and avenge the killing of Sigmund, my father.”

“What is the killing of Lygni and the conquest of his kingdom compared to the killing of Fafnir the Dragon?” Regin cried. “I will tell you what no one else knows about Fafnir the Dragon. He guards a hoard of gold and jewels the like of which has never been seen in the world. You can make all this hoard yours by killing him.”

“I do not want riches,” Sigurd said.

“No riches is like the riches that Fafnir guards. His hoard is the hoard that the Dwarf Andvari had from the world’s early days. Once the Gods themselves paid it as a ransom. And if you win this hoard you will be as one of the Gods.”

“How do you know about all this, Regin?” Sigurd said.

“I know, and one day I might tell you how I know.”

“And one day I might listen to you. But don’t speak to me again about this Dragon. I want you to make a sword that will be mightier and stronger than any sword in the world. You can do this, Regin, for you are said to be the best sword smith amongst men.”

Regin looked at Sigurd out of his small and cunning eyes and he thought it was best to make himself active. So he took the heaviest pieces of iron and put them into his furnace and he brought out the secret tools that he used when making a masterpiece.

Sigurd worked beside him all day keeping the fire at its best glow and bringing water to cool the blade as it was fashioned and refashioned. As he worked he thought only about the blade and about how he would make war on King Lygni, and avenge the man who was killed before he himself was born.

All day he thought only of war and of the beaten blade. But at night his dreams were not about wars or swords but about Fafnir the Dragon. He saw the land that was left barren by his breath, and he saw the cave where he had his den, and he saw him crawling down from his cave, his scales glittering.

The next day he worked with Regin to shape the great sword. When it was formed with all the cunning Regin knew, it looked indeed a mighty sword. Then Regin sharpened it and Sigurd polished it. At last he held the great sword by its iron hilt.

Then Sigurd took the shield that had the image of Fafnir the Dragon on it and he put the shield over the anvil of the smithy. Raising the great sword in both his hands he struck the iron shield with all his strength.

The stroke of the sword cut away some of the shield, but the blade broke in Sigurd’s hands. Then in anger he turned on Regin, crying out, “You have made a weak sword for me. You must make me a Volsung’s sword.”

Then he went out and called to Grani, his horse, mounted him and rode to the river bank like the sweep of the wind.

Regin took more pieces of iron and began to forge a new sword, uttering as he worked runes that were about the hoard that Fafnir the Dragon guarded. That night Sigurd dreamt of glittering treasure that he desired, masses of gold and heaps of glistening jewels.

The next day they both worked to make a sword that would be mightier than the first. For three days they worked on it, and then Regin put into Sigurd’s hands a sword, sharpened and polished, that was mightier and more splendid looking than the one that had been forged before. And again Sigurd took the shield that had the image of the Dragon upon it and he put it on the anvil. Then he raised his arms and struck his full blow. The sword cut through the shield, but when it struck the anvil it shivered in his hands.

He left the smithy angrily and called to Grani, his proud horse. He mounted and rode on like the sweep of the wind.

Later he came to his mother’s room and stood before Hiordis. “I must have a greater sword,” he said, “than one that is made of metal dug out of the earth. The time has come, mother, when you must give me the broken pieces of Gram, the sword of Sigmund and the Volsungs.”

Hiordis measured him with the glance of her eyes, and she saw that her son was a mighty youth and one fit to use the sword of Sigmund and the Volsungs. She told him to go with her to the King’s Hall. She took out of the great stone chest that was in her chamber the animal skin and the broken blade that was wrapped in it. She gave the pieces to her son. “These are the halves of Gram,” she said, “of Gram, the mighty sword that long ago Odin left in the Branstock, in the tree of the house of Volsung. I want to see Gram new again in your hands, my son.”

Then she embraced him as she had never embraced him before, and standing there with her reddish hair about her she told him of the glory of Gram and of the deeds of his forefathers in whose hands the sword had shone.

Then Sigurd went to the smithy, and he woke Regin out of his sleep, and he showed him the shining halves of Sigmund’s sword. He commanded him to make out of these halves a sword for him.

Regin worked for days in his smithy and Sigurd never left his side. At last the blade was forged, and when Sigurd held it in his hand fire ran along the edge of it.

Again he laid the shield that had the image of the Dragon on it on the anvil of the smithy. Again, with his hands on its iron hilt, he raised the sword for a full stroke. He struck, and the sword cut through the shield and through the anvil, cutting away its iron horn. Then Sigurd knew that he had in his hands the Volsungs’ sword. He went outside and called to Grani, and like the sweep of the wind rode down to the river bank. Pieces of wool were floating down the water. Sigurd struck at them with his sword, and the fine wool was cut in half. Gram could cut through both hardness and fineness.

That night Gram, the Volsungs’ sword, was under his head when he slept, but still his dreams were filled with images that he had not thought about in the day time.The shine of a hoard and the gleam of the scales of a Dragon that was too terrible for him to battle with.