The Northern Way

Sigurd the Dragon-Slayer

THE BALLAD OF REGIN

THIS Ballad in the main follows Volsunga Saga. It has, however, a good many points of discrepancy.

a. Regin is not the foster-father of Sigurd.

b. Sigurd is not universally popular.

c. Sigurd learns of his father's death in a manner not paralleled in V.S.

d. Sigurd chooses his steed by a device not found elsewhere.

e. There is no visit to Grípir, the uncle who spaes the hero's future, and nothing is said to the origin of the Treasure, doubtless perfectly well-known to the Faroëse public. Though its bulk has considerably increased, it does not reach the preposterous proportions described in the Nibelungen Lied, where it loads a procession of 144 baggage-waggons.

f. The Ballad departs from the primitive taboo preserved in the Lays, in making Sigurd name his name to the Dragon.

Lyngby includes a verse after the smithying of the sword, which describes the slaying of two lesser dragons, but this is omitted by the best versions.

The 'spring' so casually mentioned in v. 80 must be reminiscent of the second trial of the sword, which severed a tuft of wool sent drifting downstream against the sword-edge.

The scene between Sigurd and his mother may be compared to that between Gudrun, and her sons in

34       SIGURD THE DRAGON-SLAYER

Hamðis-Mál. Such scenes were doubtless fresh in men's memories at the time when the Ballad was composed. To this day, the wife of a man killed in a Corsican vendetta will lay by his blood-stained shirt, if her children are young, till her eldest son is of an age to take up the feud, and the whole of this episode can be paralleled in many folk-stories, from Ireland to Papua and New Guinea. (1)

The arrangement of the ditches (v. 95 et seq.) is more complicated and less intelligible than in V.S. Such stratagems, in big-game countries, are by no means obsolete. A similar tale is told of Feodor Tyrianine, the Russian folk-hero.

1. W. P. Ker, 'On the History of the Ballads 1100-1500' (Proceedings of British Academy, Vol. IV. Oxford Univ. Press, 1909).



THE BALLAD OF REGIN

BURDEN(refrain):
GRANE bore the golden hoard,
Wroth did Sigurd swing his sword,
There he slew the Dragon grim,
Wroth did Sigurd swing his sword.
1.
NOW shall ye lithe & listen well (1)
Unto this song I sing
Of warfare, & of warriors,
& many a mighty king.
      ·       ·       ·
2.
SIGMUND now name I,
Of Volsung the son;
& 'twas the youthful Hjørdis
That for his wife he won.
3.
Drank they right gaily
Glad yule-tide in;
Mighty their men-at-arms
Tribute to win.
4.
Swiftly came sorrow
To their high hall,
For many a foe was fain to see
That mighty monarch's fall.
5.
One & all, the warriors
Weapon took in hand;
Wagèd was the warfare
In King Giur's land.
6.
Wagèd was the warfare
In King Giur's land;
There did they join battle
All on the South sea-strand.

1. lithe = listen, hearken

36       SIGURD THE DRAGON-SLAYER

7.
Many fared forth to battle,
But none returned again;
Queen Hjørdis sat a-waiting
In sorrow & in pain.
8.
Forth fared Queen Hjørdis
In mantle of grey,
To seek for King Sigmund,
On battle-field lay.
9.
" Lie soft, thou Sigmund,
Dearest to me!
All in this hour of sorrow
I come to seek for thee.
10.
" Dearest of mine
In woe as in weal,
Is no green herb a-growing
Avails thy hurt to heal?
11.
" Wide mayst thou wander
Ere leeches be found,
With store of salves availing
To heal my deadly wound.
12.
" Hunding's sons in battle
Wrought my downfall;
Venom was on the sword-points
They pierced me withal.
13.
" Or ever that venom
Brought me my bane,
My goodly brand was broken
Asunder in twain.

THE BALLAD OF REGIN       37

14.
" Or ever my second wound
Touched me with smart,
The venom was seeping
Thro' to my heart.
15.
" The fragments of my goodly sword
To weapon-smith shalt bear,
& bid him forge a weapon
that our young son may wear.
16.
" For that thou bear'st within thee
Shall prove a gallant boy;
Sigurd shalt thou name him,
& foster him with joy.
17.
" Lithe now & listen,
For scant is my breath,
Sigurd our son
Shall avenge me my death.
18.
" The smith by the river
His dwelling hath made;
Bid him re-fashion
Sigmund's bright blade.
19.
" Fávnir hight the Fire-drake
Of Glitter Heath is Lord;
Regin is a cunning smith,
Yet none can trust his word.
20.
" No longer, my Hjørdis,
Talk I with thee!
Methinks 'tis now my dying hour
That cometh fast on me. "

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