The Northern Way

Sigurd the Dragon-Slayer


FOUND in two sixteenth-century MSS., of which Vedel's version is an amalgam. A Swedish MS., dating from the early eighteenth century, omits most of the salient features-Sigurd's farewell to his mother, his wild ride, and the leap over the castle turret. The hero's name is Sibol; he serves eight years for the King's daughter, and inherits the kingdom. (1)

Rough, far from distinguished, this Ballad seems, at first sight, a mere reductio ad absurdum of the original Legend. Such as it is, however, it smacks strongly of the North&msash;Sivord is a Norse, not a German, form of Sigurd; in the abrupt reference to the stepfather (a libel on good King Hjálprek) we have probably a confused reminiscence of Regin; the steed is the mother's gift; and the visit to the uncle recalls the meeting with Grípir. It is curious, moreover, to find Gram (Grane) associated with flame, though the flame is dissociated from the marvellous leap. Here is a confusion in name: Gram, here applied to the steed, is really the name of Sigurd's sword. Unlike France, Germany, and the Faroës, Denmark had little taste for epic, ballad-cycle, or family chronicle. Her minstrels contented themselves with selections from the old sources, sometimes single episodes tom from their context, with a reckless disregard for both context and proper names.

1. Anders Sørensen Vedel's version of this is entitled "Siuard Snaren Suend" and is included in his Hundredevisebog ["Hundred-Song-Book](1591).


NOW Sivord slew his stepsire
That worked his mother woe,
& then to seek his fortune
To Court he fain would go.
(Oh Gram he paced so proudly under Sigurd.)
Sivord before his mother stood
With his good sword by his side:
" To Court would I fare, my mother dear,
Had I a steed to ride. "
" Oh Gram is the name of the no blest steed;
That Middle Earth has known,
& wouldst thou indeed thine errand speed,
Then Gram shall be thine own. "
Forth did they lead that noble steed;
In furious wrath he came,
His eyes shone bright as morning star,
& from his bit sprang flame.
But still as stone stood the courser proud
That would bear no varlet's hand,
When Sivord doffed his gauntlets both
& drew the saddle-band.


He bound on his helm of burning gold,
& mounted that steed of pride;
With many a tear his mother dear
Went softly by his side.
With many a tear his mother dear
Followed him o'er the wold:
" Take heed, tak heed of thy furious steed,
Use not thy spurs of gold! "
" Now mother mine, cease dule & pine,
Let all your weeping be!
No warrior wight in all the world
Can back this steed but me. "
Sivord he shook his bridle-rein,
& struck with his spurs eftsoon;
Thrice sank the sun whilst Gram sped on
& thrice uprose the moon.
Thrice sank the sun, thrice rose the moon,
Ere yet that ride was o'er,
& the swain in saddle sat firm & fast
Tho' his boots were filled with gore.
Then to the kingly hold they came
Whose strength no tongue can tell;
The doors with iron were bolted fast,
The gates were guarded well.


The King he stood on lofty tower,
& looked forth far & wide;
" Behold, I see a madman come,
But well can the madman ride!
" For either I see some witless wight
That well can back a steed,
Or Sivord it is, my sister's son,
From foughten field doth speed. "
Now the bit took Gram his teeth between,
& leapt the turret high,
In garth he stood with his rider good
Ere man could blink an eye.
Full many a maiden's rosy cheek
Grew pale & wan for fear,
But blithely went the King to greet
The son of his sister dear-.
" Take heed, take heed, my merry men all,
That ye show our guest no scorn,
For a knight like Sivord Snarensvend
Was never of woman born! "


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