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Tolkien's Middle-earth:

Lesson Plans for Secondary School Educators

Unit Three: There and Back Again


The Slaying of Fafnir

Excerpted from "Reginsmol" and "Fafnismol"

Sigurth was there with Regin, who said to Sigurth that Fafnir lay at Gnita Heath, and was in the shape of a dragon. He had a fear-helm, of which all living creatures were terrified. Regin made Sigurth the sword which was called Gram; it was so sharp that when he thrust it down into the Rhine, and let a strand of wool drift against it with the stream, it cleft the strand asunder as if it were water. With this sword Sigurth cleft asunder Regin's anvil. After that Regin egged Sigurth on to slay Fafnir...

Sigurth and Regin found the track that Fafnir made when he crawled to water. Then Sigurth made a great trench across the path, and took his place therein. When Fafnir crawled from his gold, he blew out venom, and it ran down from above on Sigurth's head. But when Fafnir crawled over the trench, then Sigurth thrust his sword into his body to the heart. Fafnir writhed and struck out with his head and tail. Sigurth leaped from the trench, and each looked at the other. Fafnir said:

"Youth, oh, youth! | of whom then, youth, art thou born?
Say whose son thou art,
Who in Fafnir's blood | thy bright blade reddened,
And struck thy sword to my heart."

Sigurth concealed his name because it was believed in olden times that the word of a dying man might have great power if he cursed his foe by his name. He said:

"The Noble Hart | my name, and I go
A motherless man abroad;
Father I had not, | as others have,
And lonely ever I live."

Fafnir spake:
"If father thou hadst not, | as others have,
By what wonder wast thou born?
Though thy name on the day | of my death thou hidest,
Thou knowest now thou dost lie."

Sigurth spake:
"My race, methinks, | is unknown to thee,
And so am I myself;
Sigurth my name, | and Sigmund's son,
Who smote thee thus with the sword."

Fafnir spake:
"Who drove thee on? | why wert thou driven
My life to make me lose?
A father brave | had the bright-eyed youth,
For bold in boyhood thou art."

Sigurth spake:
"My heart did drive me, | my hand fulfilled,
And my shining sword so sharp;
Few are keen | when old age comes,
Who timid in boyhood be."

Fafnir spake:
"In all I say | dost thou hatred see,
Yet truth alone do I tell;
The sounding gold, | the glow-red wealth,
And the rings thy bane shall be."

* * *

Rhine = river that flows from Switzerland through western Germany to the Netherlands

hart = stag, deer

Regin = a dwarf, brother of Fafnir

Sigurth = also known as Sigurd, Siegfried in other versions

"rings thy bane" = Fafnir’s treasure was cursed

* * *

(adapted from the Henry Adams Bellows translation of the Old Norse Poetic Edda, also known as The Elder Edda; original text in the public domain)

Unit Three Content

Comments for Teachers
Preliminary Quiz
Key Terms
Discussion Topics
Suggested Activities

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