The Story of the Volsungs

Chapter xiii.

Of the Birth and Waxing of Sigurd Fafnir’s-bane.

The tale tells that Hjordis brought forth a man-child, who was straightly borne before King Hjalprek, and then was the king glad thereof, when he saw the keen eyes in the head of him, and he said that few men would be equal to him or like unto him in any wise. So he was sprinkled with water, and had to name Sigurd, of whom all men speak with one speech and say that none was ever his like for growth and goodliness. He was brought up in the house of King Hjalprek in great love and honour; and so it is, that whenso all the noblest men and greatest kings are named in the olden tales, Sigurd is ever put before them all for might and prowess, for high mind and stout heart; wherewith he was far more abundantly gifted than any man of the northern parts of the wide world.

So Sigurd waxed in King Hjalprek’s house, and there was no child but loved him; through him was Hjordis betrothed to King Alf, and jointure meted to her.

Now Sigurd’s foster-father was hight Regin, the son of Hreidmar; he taught him all manner of arts, the chess play, and the lore of runes, and the talking of many tongues, even as the wont was with kings’ sons in those days. But on a day when they were together, Regin asked Sigurd, if he knew how much wealth his father had owned, and who had the ward thereof; Sigurd answered, and said that the kings kept the ward thereof.

Said Regin, “Dost thou trust them all utterly?”

Sigurd said, “It is seemly that they keep it till I may do somewhat therewith, for better they wot how to guard it than I do.”

Another time came Regin to talk to Sigurd, and said —

“A marvellous thing truly that thou must needs be a horse-boy to the kings, and go about like a running knave.”

“Nay,” said Sigurd, “it is not so, for in all things I have my will, and whatso thing I desire is granted me with good will.”

“Well, then,” said Regin, “ask for a horse of them.”

“Yea,” quoth Sigurd, “and that shall I have, whenso I have need thereof.”

Thereafter Sigurd went to the king, and the king said —

“What wilt thou have of us?”

Then said Sigurd, “I would even a horse of thee for my disport.”

Then said the king, “Choose for thyself a horse, and whatso thing else thou desirest among my matters.”

So the next day went Sigurd to the wood, and met on the way an old man, long-bearded, that he knew not, who asked him whither away.

Sigurd said, “I am minded to choose me a horse; come thou, and counsel me thereon.”

“Well then,” said he, “go we and drive them to the river which is called Busil-tarn.”

They did so, and drave the horses down into the deeps of the river, and all swam back to land but one horse; and that horse Sigurd chose for himself; grey he was of hue, and young of years, great of growth, and fair to look on, nor had any man yet crossed his back.

Then spake the grey-beard, “From Sleipnir’s kin is this horse come, and he must be nourished heedfully, for it will be the best of all horses;” and therewithal he vanished away.

So Sigurd called the horse Grani, the best of all the horses of the world; nor was the man he met other than Odin himself.

Now yet again spake Regin to Sigurd, and said —

“Not enough is thy wealth, and I grieve right sore, that thou must needs run here and there like s churl’s son; but I can tell thee where there is much wealth for the winning, and great name and honour to be won in getting of it.”

Sigurd asked where that might be, and who had watch and ward over it.

Regin answered, “Fafnir is his name, and but a little way hence he lies, on the waste of Gnita-heath; and when thou comest there thou mayst well say that thou hast never seen more gold heaped together in one place, and that none might desire more treasure, though he were the most ancient and famed of all kings.”

“Young am I,” says Sigurd, “yet know I the fashion of this worm, and how that none durst go against him, so huge and evil is he.”

Regin said, “Nay it is not so, the fashion and the growth of him is even as of other lingworms, 29 and an over great tale men make of it; and even so would thy forefathers have deemed; but thou, though thou be of the kin of the Volsungs, shalt scarce have the heart and mind of those, who are told of as the first in all deeds of fame.”

Sigurd said, “Yea, belike I have little of their hardihood and prowess, but thou hast naught to do, to lay a coward’s name upon me, when I am scarce out of my childish years. Why dost thou egg me on hereto so busily?”

Regin said, “Therein lies a tale which I must needs tell thee.”

“Let me hear the same,” said Sigurd.

29 Lingworm — longworm, dragon.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/m/morris/william/volsungs/chapter13.html

Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 22:07