The Story of Sigurđ the Dragonslayer (Tales from the Volsunga Saga, Book 2)

Liam G. Martin
28 min readOct 2, 2022
Cover image: Elder Futhark Runes: © vonzur/
Vegvísir: © Anne Mathiasz/ | Fonts used: Unzialish and Optimus Princeps, both made by Manfed Klein.


The Volsunga saga follows the fortunes of the Volsung family, a family of legendary Norse heroes descended from the chief deity of Norse mythology, Òđin. It was first written in Iceland around 1250 AD, although its origins are likely to be much older. Several poems in the Poetic Edda, a collection of medieval Scandinavian poems, tell of events in the saga, such as Fáfnismál and Sigurđarkviđa.

The Story of Sigurđ the Dragonslayer focuses on the early life of Sigurđ, son of Sigmund. While I have simplified the plot and tried to make the narrative more accessible to a modern audience, the retelling remains faithful to the original saga.


In the aftermath of Chieftain Siggeir’s betrayal, the Volsung clan struggled to survive the winter. Sigmund, one of the warriors who had died avenging the death of Chieftain Volsung, had left behind a wife called Hjordís and a son named Sigurđ. Not long after Hjordís heard the news about her husband, she took ill and died.

Sigurđ was now all alone in the world. Regin, who had been a great admirer of Sigmund, took in the boy. The dwarf gave Sigurđ food and shelter, and in return, Sigurđ helped him in the smithy. Regin was very wise and taught Sigurđ many things. In the evenings, he would often tell Sigurđ stories of his father’s many great deeds.

One evening, while they ate, Sigurđ said to Regin, ‘You have told me many stories of my father’s greatness, but you too are a great man.’ He put his bowl of steaming chicken stew back down on the table. ‘Tonight, I would like to hear some of your stories.’

Regin, who had been slurping his stew, put his bowl down. He looked at Sigurđ curiously. Nobody had ever called him a great man before. He took a swig of beer. ‘I will tell you the story of how I came here.’

‘Many years ago, I lived with my father and my two brothers, Fáfnir and Ótr, in a glorious hall on top of a cliff. There was a waterfall that flowed down the cliff. And at the bottom was a clear blue lake filled with salmon.

‘Ótr was one of the rare few who possessed the gift of shapeshifting. He set up his nets in the lake and then took the form of an otter. He would chase the salmon so that they swam straight into his traps. When he caught enough, he would bring them to my father to cook.

‘One day, Òđin, accompanied by Hœnir and Loki, visited the lakeside. As the sun was setting, they came to our door. They carried Ótr’s dead body. Apparently, something had happened at the lakeside, and Loki had accidentally killed him. I do not know the full story of what happened, but I suspect what Loki told us was not the truth. There was something about him I did not like.

‘Òđin then told us that Loki wished to recompense us for our loss. My father agreed to the arrangement, and Loki was sent away with an empty bag to fill. I do not know how he did it, but when he returned, the bag brimmed with treasure.

‘My father snatched the bag from his hands. He quickly bid the gods farewell and began dividing the treasure into thirds.

‘While we were sorting through it, Fáfnir found an emerald ring. He told us that if we allowed him to keep the ring, we could have his share. At the time, we thought nothing of it and gladly agreed.

‘The ring changed Fáfnir, though. He spent more and more of his time in his chamber, muttering to himself. He also began stealing from our vaults. And often, at night, I would hear his footsteps outside my door.

‘One night, I heard my father’s screams. I quickly picked up my smithing hammer and rushed to his chamber.

‘Fáfnir was stood over him with a knife. He no longer looked like a dwarf. His skin had turned grey, and two milky eyes bulged from his face. The knife in his hands was red with my father’s blood.

‘When he saw me standing there, he sprang at me. He would have killed me there and then, but I was able to fight him off with my hammer. I easily overpowered him and should have finished him off. But I could not bring myself to kill my own brother. Like a coward, I ran away. I fled the halls and never returned. I travelled far. I went to many different chieftains seeking refuge, but none would take in a dwarf. That is, except for your grandfather. That is how I came to be here.’

Regin sighed and tore off a piece of flatbread.

‘Sometimes, I wonder what became of my brother.’

Chapter One: In the Footsteps of Gods


The raven watched Sigurđ curiously.

Sigurđ was in his nineteenth year with long chestnut hair and a short beard. Like his father, he was tall and broad.

Sigurđ hacked at a tree with his axe. Splinters of wood flew all around him.

Sweat trickled down his forehead and blurred his vision. He took one hand off his axe and wiped his brow.

The incision he had made into the tree trunk was deep enough for the tree to be felled.

He stepped to the other side of the tree to make a second incision.

As he swung his axe, he heard a voice call to him. ‘Can you help me?’

An old man stood by one of the trees, wearing a black hooded cloak. He had a long grey beard, and he was missing his left eye.

Sigurđ jutted out his chest and clutched his axe.

The corners of the old man’s mouth twitched. ‘I was passing through the forest when my horses escaped their tether and ran into a lake. Could you help me retrieve them?’

‘Why would I want to do that?’

‘If you help me, I will give you one of my horses.’

‘Many wild horses roam this land. Why would I need one of yours?’

‘All of my horses are of the finest stock. Much better than anything you would find in the wild.’

Sigurđ frowned and inspected the old man. His skin was thin and wrinkled. He must have been very old. Nobody in Sigurđ’s clan had lived longer than fifty years. This man must have been very fortunate to have lived for so long.

‘Very well. I will help you,’ Sigurđ said.

The old man nodded. ‘Thank you.’

‘My horses are up ahead.’ He gestured for Sigurđ to follow him further into the forest.

The deeper they went, the more uneasy Sigurđ felt. He wondered whether it had been wise to agree to help. Maybe he was leading him straight into a trap.

The old man brought Sigurđ to a lake where nine horses swam.

‘I will stay here, ready to tether the horses once you gather them,’ the old man said.

Sigurđ dropped his axe and took off his tunic. He threw it to the ground and went into the lake.

When the horses noticed Sigurđ, they began to kick faster. Fortunately, Sigurđ was a strong swimmer, and in a few strokes, he had caught one of them up.

The horse was grey and had a black mane. As soon as she saw Sigurđ approach, she twisted her long neck and tried to swim in the opposite direction. Sigurđ anticipated this and dove underwater. He swam underneath the horse, narrowly avoiding being kicked by her legs.

He came up at the other side of the horse and grabbed her lead rope. Sigurđ tried to hold onto the rope, but because the fibres were so soaked, it kept slipping from his grasp. In the end, he wrapped it around his forearm.

The horse struggled and thrashed around as Sigurđ tried to drag it out of the lake. Several times, his arm snapped back because the horse had made a wild lunge in the opposite direction.

When he climbed out of the lake, it was as if a great weight pulled him down. His boots were filled with water, and his leggings clung to his thighs.

He brought the horse over to the old man. ‘Here,’ he said, handing him the lead rope.

There was a red imprint on Sigurđ’s forearm where the rope had burnt his skin. He rubbed it and then massaged his shoulder to relieve some of the pain. Tomorrow he would be going on his first raid. He hoped the injury was nothing too serious.

‘Are you hurt,’ the old man asked.

Sigurđ quickly lowered his hands. ‘I am fine.’

He went back to the lake and dived in.

One by one, he rounded up the rest of the horses and brought them to the old man.

When he approached the final horse, he was taken aback by his grace. The horse was white and had a short silver mane. He was tall with long, powerful legs that churned up the water with ease. Unlike the others, this horse calmed when Sigurđ took its lead rope. He did not struggle as Sigurđ led it out of the lake.

Sigurđ took him to the old man but did not give him the lead rope. ‘This is the horse I will take,’ he told him.

‘A wise choice. This horse’s name is Grani. He is descended from Sleipnir, a horse that knows no equal. I have no doubt it will serve you well.’

The old man held out his palm for Grani to nuzzle. Once the horse had said his goodbye, he turned his neck and looked at Sigurđ. It was as if the horse was making sure he was worthy. After a minute, he bowed his head and allowed Sigurđ to stroke his mane.

‘Thank you for your help,’ the old man said. He tugged at the ropes that tethered the horses together to double-check the knots held strong.

‘Goodbye,’ Sigurđ shouted. He picked up his tunic from the floor, put it back on, and led Grani out of the clearing.

The old man made a loud clicking sound, and his horses began to walk. He headed in the opposite direction to Sigurđ.


The following day, Sigurđ stepped out of Regin’s house and breathed in the air. It was stale. The smell of animal dung was so strong it stung his eyes. Once he was at sea, he would come to miss this smell. He knew, however, that the promise of fame and wealth was worth leaving his homeland for.

‘Come, Sigurđ. We must be on our way,’ Egil called. Egil was the leader of the warband. He had long black hair and a long black beard. His face bore many scars from battles gone by.

Sigurđ sighed and went over to him.

‘Do not worry. If all goes well, we should be back before winter.’

Together, they walked out of the settlement.

Once they were outside the gates, Sigmund could see the longboat in the distance.

His stomach lurched.

‘We have finished loading up the boat with provisions. The men are waiting. All that is left is for you to join us.’

Sigurđ gulped.

Egil slapped him on the back. ‘I remember my first raid. I was nervous too. But I was a farmer, not a warrior. After all these years, I am still not a very good warrior. Look at all these scars on my face. Do you think a good warrior gets this many scars?’ He laughed. ‘You are a born warrior, though. It is clear for anyone to see. We are lucky to have you in our warband.’

Regin was waiting for them at the shore. His black hair had long since turned grey, and his beard was white. His skin glistened with sweat because he had spent most of the early hours of the day working over a smouldering forge. He carried a sword.

‘Sigurđ, I have something for you,’ he said.

‘Can I have a moment with Regin?’ Sigurđ asked Egil.

‘Be quick,’ Egil told him. He glared at Regin and stepped onto the boat. Even though the dwarf had been with the clan for many years, he was still distrusted.

Regin gave the sword to Sigurđ. ‘This is Gram. It belongs to you.’

‘But I thought the sword was shattered by Siggeir when he betrayed my grandfather.’

‘Signý was able to steal back the shards. She gave them to me so that one day I could reforge the sword.’

Sigurđ took Gram and held it out. It glimmered in the early morning sunlight.

‘So, this is the blade given to my family by Òđin.’ He had heard many stories about this sword but had never expected to see it, let alone hold it in his own hands. The blade showed no signs that it had been reforged. The metal was smooth and strong.

‘Thank you.’

He took his old sword out of the scabbard strapped to his back and handed it to Regin. Then, he put Gram into the empty scabbard.

‘Come. We have to set sail while the winds are strong,’ Egil interrupted.

Sigurđ bowed his head at Regin and stepped onto the longboat to help his warband finish untying the sail.

Once it was fully unfurled, they lifted anchor, and the boat drifted to sea.

Chapter Two: The Dragon’s Treasure


It had been a month since Sigurđ returned from raiding. The warband had brought back bags brimming with bronze coins to share between each warrior and sacks of exotic grains for the farmers to sow into their fields.

‘Sigurđ, are you awake?’ Regin asked one night. They slept in beds opposite each other.

Sigurđ pulled his bed covers down and rubbed his eyes. ‘What?’

‘While you were away, an old wanderer came to our settlement with word of a dragon that lives in the forests to the north. He said it stands guard over a vast hoard of treasure. I think you should slay it and take the treasure.’

‘Why are you telling me this now?’

‘At the feast, I overheard Egil mention that he intends to go and slay the dragon. I am telling you now so that you can ride out at first light and reach the beast first.’

‘So, that is why you kept making sure Egil’s cup was full.’

‘Egil is a good man, but you are a Volsung. You are descended from a long line of great warriors. The honour of slaying the dragon should belong to you. I know your father would have leapt at the opportunity to test his strength against such a beast.’

Sigurđ rolled onto his side and closed his eyes. ‘Fine.’

He woke up early the next morning.

‘I have packed you some supplies in a bag,’ Regin said.

Sigurđ sat up and got off his bed. There was a fire crackling in the hearth. Regin knelt by it, sharpening his knife on a whetstone. The blade made a scratching sound as he scraped it against the smooth surface of the stone.

On the table was a flatbread and a bowl of grains. It gave off a sweet, wheaty aroma.

Sigurđ bent down and picked up Gram off the floor. Then, he put his winter clothes on and decided which weapons to take with him. He chose his axe, his knife, and his bow, but he left his shield behind. He would have to cover vast distances, and having something so bulky on his back would get in his way.

Regin pressed his finger into the point of the knife to test how sharp it was. The blade pierced his skin, and a droplet of blood trickled down his hand. He put it back in its sheath and fastened it to his belt. ‘I have put out food for you so you can be on your way quicker.’

Sigurđ went over to the table and sat down. He tore off a piece of the flatbread and began eating.

Whilst he ate, Regin went over to a barrel and filled up two cups with ale. He brought the cups over to the table. ‘Here,’ he said, handing one of them to Sigurđ.

Sigurđ snatched it and took a swig.

Regin sat opposite him and told him everything he knew about the dragon.

When Sigurđ had emptied the bowl of grains and devoured the flatbread, he got up.

Regin also got up. ‘You go and get Grani while I open the side gate.’

Sigurđ nodded. He took one last mouthful of his ale and went over to put his cloak on. Then, he headed to the stables.

When he stepped outside, he pulled his hood over his head to shield himself from the elements. The air was icy and sharp. His breath came out as small balls of mist. Winter was fast approaching. Whatever happened with the dragon, it would need to be over quickly.

He kept his head down as he went to the stables. After last night’s feast, nobody was out.

The stables were joined to the back of the longhouse. It was a wooden building that was divided up into several enclosures.

Sigurđ opened the gate to Grani’s enclosure and made a clicking sound.

Grani lay asleep, but once he realised his master was calling, he slowly got up. Sigurđ picked up the halter and bridle that was on a table. When the horse was close enough, he put both of them on him. Then, taking hold of the halter, he led him out of the stables and through the settlement.

Regin had managed to open the side gate. He stood beside it, holding the bag he had packed for Sigurđ.

Sigurđ let go of Grani’s halter and mounted the horse.

Regin came over and passed the bag to Sigurđ. ‘I was not sure how long you would be in the wilds, but I packed you enough for two weeks.’ Sigurđ took the bag and secured it on Grani.

‘Now, go. Make your father proud.’

Sigurđ gently nudged Grani in the ribs, and the horse shot forward.


Sigurđ rode past fjords, through rocky chasms, and over moss-covered mountains. There were occasions when he would come to a forest and have to go through on foot.

Sigurđ also kept a close eye on the mayweeds that dotted the landscape. Regin had said that once they started to die, the dragon’s lair would be nearby.

Sigurđ got off Grani and knelt over a patch of mayweeds. Each flower drooped limply. Their petals were no longer white but grey. He touched one of them. It felt crisp, and it withered away at his touch.

He wiped his hands on his tunic and looked up. The patches of dead flowers seemed to pave the way into a forest. The dragon must be inside, he thought.

Taking some rope out of his bag, he led Grani away from the forest and tied him to a tall pine tree.

‘I will go into the forest and scout the dragon’s lair,’ he told the horse. ‘When I am finished, I will return, and we will set up camp.’

Grani huffed and dropped his head.

Sigurđ patted the horse’s neck. ‘I know. But I will be back soon.’ Then, he turned and went into the forest.

From the little Regin had told him, this dragon was not like other dragons. Instead of flying through the skies, it slivered on the ground. That is why Sigurđ crouched low as he stalked through the forest.

The further in he went, the more the daylight was blotted out by the trees. Sigurđ tried his best to quieten his breathing, but with his heart pounding and his muscles tense, it was difficult. With one hand, he clasped the handle of Gram in case the dragon ambushed him.

He prowled through the forest, seeing many different animals; elks, lynxes, even wolves, but he saw no dragon.

Sigurđ’s back ached, and his legs were beginning to fatigue. He stood up straight to stretch his spine. Several bones clicked back into place.

This was not working, he decided. What he needed was a better vantage point. He looked around, inspecting some of the trees. He went over to one that seemed like it had the strongest branches and began to climb it.

When he was mid-way up, he stopped and looked down over the forest. It was not long before he saw the dragon’s outline. He climbed back down the tree and headed towards it.

The first thing that hit him as he approached was the smell. It was like a thick sulphuric sludge. His breaths grew shorter. It made him want to cough, but he knew that any sound he made would risk giving him away. He bunched up part of his tunic and shoved it into his mouth.

He walked slowly. Crouching so low that his knees brushed against the grass.

Then, he saw the dragon emerge out of a thicket. It crept on the ground, clawing at the earth to drag its body forward. Its scales were black, and they made its bulging, milky eyes seem even more unsettling. Razer-sharp teeth protruded up from its mouth. The dragon was veiled by thick, green smog that rose from its nostrils.

Sigurđ stalked the beast to the far edge of the forest, to where the trees began to be replaced by jagged rocks. He could even see the tips of ice cliffs in the distance.

The dragon skulked towards a small opening in a cavern. It stopped before it went inside and looked back.

Sigurđ dived to the ground. He lay as flat as he could. Although he had made sure he was well covered at all times, he did not want to take any chances.

The dragon turned and went into its lair.

Sigurđ stayed lying on the ground for several minutes.

When he was sure the dragon was deep inside its lair, he got to his feet and inched towards the cavern.

He peered inside, but it was too dark to make anything out. He did not go in. Instead, he turned back and left the forest.

He returned to Grani and set up camp.


The following day, as the sun began rising, Sigurđ went back into the forest and headed to the dragon’s lair. He climbed a tree that overlooked the entrance and sat on one of the branches. While he waited, he thought of ways he could slay the beast.

It was not long until the dragon dragged itself out of its lair. The smell of sulphur filled the air.

Sigurđ waited until it was far enough away before he climbed down the tree and followed it.

He paid close attention to the beast’s route through the forest. Anything he could learn would help him come up with a plan of attack.

By the time the sun had fully risen, the beast had returned to its lair. Sigurđ climbed the tree he sat in earlier and waited to see if the dragon came back out.

At sunset, it re-emerged, and Sigurđ followed it again. The path it took was the same as earlier.

When the dragon was back in its lair, Sigurđ headed to camp.

The next day, Sigurđ awoke at the same time he had done the day before and emptied out his supply bag. Then, he went to the dragon’s lair. He hid his bag under a rock and climbed up a nearby tree until the beast came out. When it did, instead of following it, he started digging a hole at the foot of the cavern. The hole had to be deep enough to hide in but not wide enough that the dragon fell into it when it crawled over.

While he dug, he kept glancing at the suns position in the sky to gauge how much time he had until the dragon returned.

When he thought the hole was deep enough, he gathered ferns and heaped them around it. He took out Gram and squeezed himself into the hole. There was enough room to hide in as long as he crouched. He reached out and pulled the ferns over the hole to cover it.

Sigurđ pointed Gram upwards.

All he could do now was wait for the dragon.

After a while, his legs ached from crouching. He tried to re-adjust himself, but there was not enough space inside the hole. It was starting to feel like the earth was closing in around him. Like he was slowly being crushed. Even the air was stale. It was becoming hard to breathe.

He was about to poke his head out and fill his lungs with the crisp forest air when he heard talons clawing at the dirt. The dragon was coming.

As the dragon drew nearer, the toxic air flooded the hole. It seeped into Sigurđ’s lungs. He gritted his teeth so hard it hurt his jaw. Above him, the dragon’s shadow inched closer.

He waited until it was right over his head, and then he sprang up. He drove Gram upwards.

Blood gushed over Sigurđ. It ran down his face.

He pulled Gram out of the dragon and pushed the beast aside.

Sigurđ crawled out of the hole and sat back on his knees. He wiped the blood from his face.

The forest was quiet.

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

Then, he got to his feet.

He used Gram to turn over the dragon’s corpse. The beast was changing. Its black scales paled. Its talons turned into fingers. Thin black hair sprouted on top of its head. Its face became gaunt and skeleton-like. The only thing that remained the same were its bulging eyes.

Sigurđ wondered if it had once been human. Its limbs were too short to have belonged to a man, so it would have most likely been a dwarf. But if it had been a dwarf, what could have done this to it?

Then, he noticed the emerald ring on the dwarf’s finger. It looked well crafted. Like it was valuable. The corners of Sigurđ’s mouth sharpened to form a smile.

Using Gram, he slid the ring off the dwarf’s finger. He picked up the ring and took it over to where he had hidden his bag. He put Gram back in its scabbard and picked up the bag. He tossed the ring in it.

His attention then turned to the dragon’s lair. There was likely to be more treasure inside.

The cavern was narrow, and the ground sloped downward as if he was walking into some sort of burrow. Stalagmites spiralled down from the ceiling. Sigurđ had to duck to avoid hitting his head on them. Then, he saw the glint of gold in the distance. His heart raced, and his pace quickened.

When he reached the treasure hoard, he plunged his hands in and shovelled it into his bag. There were heaps of silver coins, piles of sparkling gemstones, and jewellery fit for kings. He found a long golden coat of chainmail. He took off his cloak and put the chainmail on. It was far heavier than the tunics and leather jackets he usually wore. It weighed his shoulders down. But he had heard the skalds sing of warriors who went to battle in chainmail. It had made them impervious to both blade and arrow. The protection it would give Sigurđ was worth the loss of agility. He put his cloak back on. There was also a silver helmet with a golden visor. It had a stave-rune carved onto it. A sheet of golden chainmail trailed down the back and sides, so the wearer’s neck would be protected in battle. He put it on and looked around to see if there was anything he missed. There was a shield leant on a rock nearby. It was plated with gold and had the symbol of a dragon emblazoned onto it.

Sigurđ picked it up and fastened it to his back. Then, he left the lair.

He lugged the bag back to camp, stopping off at a stream to wash the dried blood from his face. When he got back, he fastened the bag to Grani. Then, he mounted the horse and set off on his way back to the settlement.


It was nightfall when Sigurđ arrived back at the settlement. The sky was dark and full of stars.

The gates were shut.

Sigurđ got off Grani and climbed over the walls. When he was on the other side, he untied the rope that held the gates shut and pushed them open. He took Grani’s lead rope and led the horse inside. Before he went further into the settlement, he closed the gates, making sure they were securely fastened.

He led Grani to the stables.

Sigurđ ushered him inside one of the enclosures, took the bag off him, and closed the gate.

Then, he headed to Regin’s house.

Regin sat at the table eating a bowl of broth.

Sigurđ dropped the bag on the floor.

Regin got up. ‘Let me get you something to eat.’

He picked up an empty bowl and took it over to a pot that hung over the hearth. ‘Is the dragon’s treasure in that bag?’ He filled the bowl with broth.

Sigurđ took off his helmet and threw it on the ground. ‘It is,’ he said, sitting down at the table.

Regin put the bowl in front of Sigurđ. ‘A warm meal will do you good. Then, you can get some sleep.’

Sigurđ raised his head and drank his broth.

Regin sat opposite. ‘So, what happened with the dragon?’

Sigurđ put down the bowl and leant forward to tear off a chunk of flatbread. In between mouthfuls, he told Regin about the dragon and how its form had changed once he had slain it.

Once Sigurđ had his fill, he went to bed.

Regin eyed the bag of treasure. He glanced back to make sure Sigurđ was asleep. Then, he crept over to it and began sifting through it.


A dagger cut into Sigurđ’s neck as he slept. Feeling the cold iron pierce his skin, he awoke and elbowed his attacker. He rolled out of bed and picked up Gram. Then, he sprang up and wrestled his attacker to the ground.

‘Regin?’ Sigurđ said, holding Gram to the dwarf’s throat. ‘Tell me the meaning of this.’

‘That dragon’, he panted. ‘That was my brother. I had my suspicions when you told me what had happened when you killed it. But once I saw the ring you brought back, I knew. It was the same as the ring Fáfnir wore all those years ago. You murdered my brother. And whatever he became, he is still my brother. We swore an oath of brotherhood long ago. To not try to avenge his death would bring me great dishonour.’

Sigurđ stood up and shook his head. ‘I do not want to murder the person that raised me.’

‘Then, I will never stop trying to avenge my brother’s death. Everywhere you go, I will follow. I will always be in the shadows, waiting for my moment to kill you.’

‘So be it.’ Sigurđ got off Regin. He stepped back and turned around to pick up his winter clothes from the floor.

Regin quickly scrambled to his feet and charged towards Sigurđ.

Sigurđ dropped his shoulder, spun around, and allowed the dwarf to run straight into Gram.

He pulled the sword out of Regin, and the dwarf thudded to the floor.

Sigurđ stepped over the corpse. He knew the punishment for murdering somebody in the clan was to be outlawed. And rather than wait for his fate to be decided for him, he would decide it for himself.

He put his treasure back in his bag and gathered his belongings. As he went out of the front door, he glanced back. He knew that this would be the last time he would see the place where he grew up.

Sigurđ stepped out into the icy rain and closed the door behind him.


Sigurđ goes on to become one of the greatest mortal heroes of Norse mythology. Whilst this story only tells how he defeated the mighty Fáfnir, I have included a summary of Sigurđ’s later life.

Summary of Sigurđ’s Later Life

After Sigurđ killed his foster-father and left the clan, he lived in the wilds. It was a harsh and unforgiving life, but it taught him to be strong.

One day, Sigurđ came to a battleground. He rode through the fields of the dead, looking at each of their decaying corpses. Among them, he noticed a woman who appeared to be untouched by the blade. She had long braided black hair and icy blue eyes. Sigurđ dismounted Grani and approached her to see why she lay there. He went to kneel beside the woman, but as he did, she rolled to her feet. Before he could react, the woman swept away his legs and crouched over him. She held a knife to his throat.

‘What will you do once you have killed me?’ Sigurđ asked.

‘I will take your horse and ride to my homelands.’

‘My horse is loyal only to me. It will not allow you ride him.’

She glanced up at Grani. The horse was calm. It looked her in the eyes. It was not like any horse she had seen before, wild or tamed.

‘Perhaps you are right.’

‘Then, lower your weapon, and we will ride to your homelands together. If you kill me, then you will have no horse to ride, but if I kill you, I will not know the way to your homelands.’

The woman lowered her knife and stepped back to allow Sigurđ to get to his feet.

‘My name is Brynhild,’ she told him.

‘I am Sigurđ.’

When they finally arrived at Brynhild’s homeland, the people were all in awe of Sigurđ. He was like no man they had ever seen before.

That evening, Sigurđ was invited to dine with Heimir, Brynhild’s brother-in-law, and Bekkhild, Brynhild’s sister.

After they ate, Sigurđ told them how he slew Fáfnir and took the dragon’s treasure.

Heimir and Bekkhild were so impressed by Sigurđ’s story that they allowed him to stay. Bekkhild even suggested that he learned how to use the runes from Brynhild.

Brynhild was reluctant to teach Sigurđ at first. It was only after hearing her sister’s pleas that she eventually agreed.

The first time they met, Brynhild gave Sigurđ a cup and told him to drink.

Before he could take his first sip, however, she ordered him to stop.

‘Let us first see whether it is safe to drink.’

She took a knife and carved a rune into the table.

Then, Brynhild snatched Sigurđ’s cup and carefully poured some of the liquid into the carving. The rune began to glow.

‘This is poison. If you drink it, you will die.’

She handed Sigurđ the knife. ‘Listen to what I say, and I will teach you the secrets of the runes.’

Over time, Sigurđ learned how to use the runes. He also began to fall in love with Brynhild.

One day, he asked her to be his wife, but she told him she was a warrior and had no desire for married life. However, she did agree to marry him if he rode through the ring of fire. Brynhild knew that many had tried to ride through the ring of fire, but all had been burnt alive. She was sure Sigurđ would deem such a task too risky and no longer bother her with such questions. A man such as him could get any woman in the land without even needing to risk death.

Sigurđ, though, agreed to Brynhild’s terms.

He approached the ring of fire on Grani. It was a fiery circle with flames lashing and snapping at anything that came close. Grani did not even flinch. Sigurđ gently stroked his mane and then urged him into a gallop.

When Grani was close enough for the flames to lick Sigurđ’s skin, the horse leapt up. Its flight through the ring was so true and graceful that Sigurđ was untouched by the fire.

Upon seeing the intensity in Sigurđ’s glare, how he was willing to risk his own life for her, Brynhild’s heart softened. She fell in love with him.

‘Now that you have completed my trial, I will be your wife,’ she told him.

‘No,’ Sigurđ said. ‘One day we will marry, and one day you will be my wife, but when that day does come, it will be because you chose it and not because I completed a trial.’

Sigurđ returned to Heimir’s halls.

That night, he had a dream which told him that glory awaited him in the south. When he awoke, he made preparations to leave. He bid Brynhild farewell, promising to return to her one day. Before he left, he buried Fáfnir’s treasure beside a pine tree. He carved a rune onto the tree, so he would know where to dig when he returned.

Sigurđ rode until he came to a wealthy settlement. It was ruled by a man called Gjúki, and his wife, Grímhild, a powerful witch. They had three children. Two sons named Gunnar and Hogni, and a daughter named Guđrún. As soon as Grímhild saw Sigurđ, she sensed that no mortal man would ever be his equal. She persuaded her husband to allow him to go raiding with their sons later that year.

When they eventually returned from raiding, they brought back great riches. Sigurđ had proved to both be a great warrior and a fine oarsman. He had even saved the life of Gunnar. In their time together, the two brothers had grown very fond of Sigurđ. So, they decided to mix their blood with his and swear an oath of brotherhood.

When Sigurđ eventually told them he intended to leave the settlement, they pleaded for him to stay. Guđrún even confessed her love for him. She told him that if he stayed, they could marry. Still, Sigurđ intended to leave. He would not tell them why, though. Grímhild, however, knew. She possessed the ability of second-sight and could see many things. To make him stay, she secretly gave Sigurđ a potion which made him forget all about Brynhild and fall in love with Guđrún instead.

A year later, while exploring, Gunnar met a woman from a distant land called Brynhild. She was beautiful and strong. He decided that this would be the woman he would ask to marry him. When he did, Brynhild told him, as she had told Sigurđ all those years ago, that she would marry him if he could ride through the ring of fire. She hoped this would dissuade him, but it did not. He returned home to make preparations. Grímhild, knowing that her son will die in the trial, once again gave Sigurđ a potion, this time to make him look like Gunnar. She did the same to Grani to disguise his appearance in case Brynhild recognised the horse.

Sigurđ, disguised as Gunnar, went to Brynhild’s halls. On his way there, he came to a curious-looking pine tree. It had a rune carved into it. There was something familiar about the tree. It was almost as if he had seen it before. He looked around and noticed a mound beneath it. Something must have been buried there. He dismounted Grani and began to dig. He found a bag. Sigurđ reached into it and pulled out handfuls of gemstones. He also found an emerald ring. He dropped the gems back into the bag, but he put the ring into his belt pouch. To him, the ring was simply an ordinary ring. He had no memory of how it had twisted the heart of Fáfnir.

When he finally saw Brynhild, he felt nothing. Grímhild’s potion had worked.

‘Are you here to attempt my trial?’ Brynhild asked. ‘I warn you, many who have attempted it have burned to death. Ask yourself, is it worth such a risk?’

‘I will take your trial,’ Sigurđ said.

He went to the ring of fire, and as he had done before, rode through it unscathed.

Brynhild face turned pale as she realised what she had done. She had promised her hand to one man, while her heart would forever belong to another.

Sigurđ took out Fáfnir’s ring and gave it to her.

When they returned to Gjúki’s halls, Sigurđ took back his own form and returned to Guđrún.

Gunnar married Brynhild.

The first time Brynhild saw Sigurđ, her heart stood still. It was as if he did not even recognise her. Not only had he broken his promise of returning to her, but he had married another woman. She felt betrayed.

Every day, his presence mocked her. She grew more and more consumed by hatred. Fáfnir’s ring was taking hold of her.

One day, Guđrún was bragging about how Sigurđ was the finest horseback rider in the land.

‘But, Gunnar rode through the ring of fire. Does that not mean he is as good as Sigurđ?’ Brynhild said.

Guđrún laughed. ‘It was Sigurđ who rode through the ring of fire, not Gunnar. Grímhild knew Gunnar was not a skilled enough rider to prevail, so she gave Sigurđ a potion to make him look like Gunnar. Sigurđ tricked you.’

This was it for Brynhild. She stormed to her bed chamber and slammed the door behind her.

That night, she conspired to kill Sigurđ. Guttorm, Gunnar’s cousin, had not sworn any oaths to Sigurđ. One evening, she invited him to dine with her, feeding him the meat of a wolf. The meat made Guttorm’s eyes swell with rage and his mouth froth with spit. Then, she told him she had overheard Sigurđ plotting to kill Guttorm.

Guttorm took out his axe and burst into Sigurđ’s bed-chamber. He went to his bedside and hacked wildly at his sleeping body until the bed covers were drenched in blood. Sigurđ awoke, and with his last ounce of strength, reached for Gram. He used it to cut off Guttorm’s head.

Guđrún, who was now soaked in her husband’s blood, sobbed so loud that it echoed through the settlement. When Brynhild heard her cries, she laughed. She would soon leave this place. Start again. She tore off the necklace Gunnar had gifted her. She took out her earrings and tossed them onto the floor. And last of all, she threw off Fáfnir’s ring. Once she no longer wore the ring, once the blackness no longer gripped her heart, she realised all that she had done. She had killed the only man she would ever love. Brynhild collapsed to her knees and wept.

On the day of the funeral, a cold wind swept through the land. Sigurđ was laid to rest on one of Gjúki’s finest ships. Guđrún was the one to set the ship aflame.

Brynhild watched on with tears in her eyes. Gunnar put his arm around her to comfort her. But he did not know of what she had done. Nobody knew. She pulled away from Gunnar, and as the ship left the shore, jumped onboard. She knelt beside Sigurđ and waited for the flames to engulf her.


A god.

A trickster god who, whilst not of Aesir blood, is allowed to live among them because he is a blood brother to Òđin.

The chief deity of Norse mythology.

Skalds are the poets of Old Norse.