The Northern Way

Sigurd the Dragon-Slayer


THIS, the finest of the three Ballads, mainly follows V.S., though with important variations, chiefly concerned with the supernatural element. The radiance mentioned in vv. 5-6 is the rapidly-fading fire of the gods; yet, though the story has moved a step nearer the region of fairy-tale, it retains a grandeur impossible in the Märchen.

a. Brynhild is no Valkyrie; there is no mention of Odin's wrath, the Sleep-Thorn, and the vow of perpetual maidenhood.

b. The shape-changing of Sigurd with Gunnar has disappeared. Brynhild's marriage with Gunnar is not related, but assumed as an accomplished fact.

c. The Queen's Ring (mentioned in other Ballads) takes the place of Andvari's Ring.

d. The Flyting between the two Queens occurs in V.S. long after the two marriages: here it follows immediately.

e. Asla, in V.S., is placed under Heimi's fosterage.

f.Brynhild's weeping for Sigurd is peculiar to this Ballad.

g. Also the kissing of the dead Sigurd by Gudrun, and her wanderings with his steed.

Let it be noted that Gudrun requites treachery by treachery in her acceptance of the weregild (v. 206) offered for Sigurd, thus giving her brothers to understand that no further atonement would be exacted.


The account of Brynhild's death and funeral-pyre in the O.N. Lays belongs to more primitive times than the scene in the Nibelungen Lied; yet both may be later than the ballad's simple statement that she 'died for sorrow.'

The poet shows in this ballad the true Northern faculty for blending the human with the unearthly element, so far as the latter has been retained. The chief characters are nobly. handled, and the minor well individualized. King Budli lives and breathes, while Grimhild is no less uncanny because she is also the match-making mother of all time. Her portrait is rounded off in the third ballad (Høgni), when, 'woeful and wise,' foreseeing their doom, she bids farewell to the sons who deride her warning. The setting of the tragedy plays its part: continual allusions suggest the atmosphere of the vast European 'Mirkwood,' which, to the treeless Faroës, must have been the region par excellence of marvel and mystery.


GRANE bore the golden hoard,
Wroth did Sigurd swing his sword,
There he slew the Dragon grim,
Wroth did Sigurd swing his sword.
I HAVE heard a tale of the olden time
That in greenwood wild they sing;
Now will I tell what erst befell
When Budli reigned as king.
King Budli reigned o'er the woodland,
Great store of gold had he;
& Brynhild, his only daughter,
Was a woman fair to see.
Both far & wide her fame went forth
Amid the woodland green;
No woman beauteous as Brynhild
On Middle Earth was seen.
'Tis told in ancient story,
How she dwelt on Hildar's height:
& sunshine was turned to shadow
Before her beauty bright.
On Hildar-fell doth Brynhild dwell,
In the kingdom of her sire;
Light shineth about her shoulders
Brighter than burning fire.
In lady's bower sat Brynhild
(So is the story told),
& combed her silken tresses
That shone like the red, red gold.


Oh sons of kings went there to woo,
& jarls of high degree,
But Brynhild still bethought her
None might her equal be.
It was blithe King Budli
Wrapped him in cloak of vair,
& went his way to the high-loft
To seek his daughter fair.
" Now harken, Brynhild, my daughter.
Great peril is in the land
For that thou slightest the suitors
Would ask thy lily-white hand.
" Bethink thee, Brynhild, my daughter,
Great is my grief to-day,
For that thou art asked in marriage,
& still dost answer nay! "
" Now hush thee, hush thee, my father,
Let no such words be said!
The warrior comes not hither
Is worthy me to wed.
" He cometh not, that warrior bold.
Down thro' the wild woodland;
Afar where he dwells to the eastward
He holdeth my heart in hand.
" Sigurd do men name him,
Of Sigmund the son;
Hjørdis she that bore him,
When Sigmund's days were done. "


" Great marvel is this, my daughter,
& strange this love O' thine,
That is laid, forsooth, on an outland youth (1)
Thou never hast seen with eyne! "
" Long hath it lain in my bosom,
The thread that the Norns entwine!
Sigurd, son of Sigmund,
I have loved thro' winters nine. "
Up spake blithe King Budli,
& poured the mead again:
" Now wherefore is Sigurd fairer
Than any well-born swain? "
" Now therefore is Sigurd fairer
Than any champion bold,
For that his saddle & byrnie
Shine bright with the burning gold.
" Oft, oft have I heard the tidings
That tell of Sigurd' s fame;
The warlock Worm of Glitter Heath
Alone he overcame.
" Alone he slew the warlock Worm
On Glitter Heath did dwell,
& won such store of treasure
As never a tongue can tell.
" Great fame was won by Sigmund's son
With store of gold and fee;
There's never a knight in Hunnish land
That may his equal be. "

1. forsooth = in truth

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