The Story of the Volsungs

Chapter xiv.

Regin’s tale of his Brothers, and of the Gold called Andvari’s Hoard.

“The tale begins,” said Regin. “Hreidmar was my father’s name, a mighty man and z wealthy: and his first son was named Fafnir, his second Otter, and I was the third, and the least of them all both for prowess and good conditions, but I was cunning to work in iron, and silver, and gold, whereof I could make matters that availed somewhat. Other skill my brother Otter followed, and had another nature withal, for he was a great fisher, and above other men herein; in that he had the likeness of an otter by day, and dwelt ever in the river, and bare fish to bank in his mouth, and his prey would he ever bring to our father, and that availed him much: for the most part he kept him in his otter-gear, and then he would come home, and eat alone, and slumbering, for on the dry land he might see naught. But Fafnir was by far the greatest and grimmest, and would have all things about called his.

“Now,” says Regin, “there was a dwarf called Andvari, who ever abode in that force, 30 which was called Andvari’s force, in the likeness of a pike, and got meat for himself, for many fish there were in the force; now Otter, my brother, was ever wont to enter into the force, and bring fish aland, and lay them one by one on the bank. And so it befell that Odin, Loki, and Hoenir, as they went their ways, came to Andvari’s force, and Otter had taken a salmon, and ate it slumbering upon the river bank; then Loki took a stone and cast it at Otter, so that he gat his death thereby; the gods were well content with their prey, and fell to flaying off the otter’s skin; and in the evening they came to Hreidmar’s house, and showed him what they had taken: thereon he laid hands on them, and doomed them to such ransom, as that they should fill the otter skin with gold, and cover it over without with red gold; so they sent Loki to gather gold together for them; he came to Ran, 31 and got her net, and went therewith to Andvari’s force, and cast the net before the pike, and the pike ran into the net and was taken. Then said Loki —

“‘What fish of all fishes,

Swims strong in the flood,

But hath learnt little wit to beware?

Thine head must thou buy,

From abiding in hell,

And find me the wan waters flame.’

“He answered —

“‘Andvari folk call me,

Call Oinn my father,

Over many a force have I fared;

For a Norn of ill-luck,

This life on me lay

Through wet ways ever to wade.’

“So Loki beheld the gold of Andvari, and when he had given up the gold, he had but one ring left, and that also Loki took from him; then the dwarf went into a hollow of the rocks, and cried out, that that gold-ring, yea and all the gold withal, should be the bane of every man who should own it thereafter.

“Now the gods rode with the treasure to Hreidmar, and fulfilled the otter-skin, and set it on its feet, and they must cover it over utterly with gold: but when this was done then Hreidmar came forth, and beheld yet one of the muzzle hairs, and bade them cover that withal; then Odin drew the ring, Andvari’s loom, from his hand, and covered up the hair therewith; then sang Loki —

“‘Gold enow, gold enow,

A great weregild, thou hast,

That my head in good hap I may hold;

But thou and thy son

Are naught fated to thrive,

The bane shall it be of you both.’

“Thereafter,” says Regin, “Fafnir slew his father and murdered him, nor got I aught of the treasure, and so evil he grew, that he fell to lying abroad, and begrudged any share in the wealth to any man, and so became the worst of all worms, and ever now lies brooding upon that treasure: but for me, I went to the king and became his master-smith; and thus is the tale told of how I lost the heritage of my father, and the weregild for my brother.”

So spake Regin; but since that time gold is called Ottergild, and for no other cause than this.

But Sigurd answered, “Much hast thou lost, and exceeding evil have thy kinsmen been! But now, make a sword by thy craft, such a sword as that none can be made like unto it; so that I may do great deeds therewith, if my heart avail thereto, and thou wouldst have me slay this mighty dragon.”

Regin says, “Trust me well herein; and with that same sword shalt thou slay Fafnir.”

30 Waterfall (Ice. “foss”, “fors”).

31 Ran is the goddess of the sea, wife of Aegir. The otter was held sacred by Norsefolk and figures in the myth and legend of most races besides; to this day its killing is held a great crime by the Parsees (Haug. “Religion of the Parsees”, page 212). Compare penalty above with that for killing the Welsh king’s cat (“Ancient Laws and Institutes of Wales”. Ed., Aneurin Owen. Longman, London, 1841, 2 vols. 8vo).

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:58