How the Volsung Hero Sigurth Slayed the Dragon


By Jackson Crawford, University of Colorado, Boulder

The Volsung hero, Sigmund’s son Sigurth is guided by the hand of Odin as well, and this son Sigurth is regarded as an even greater hero than his father. Often hailed as the man who knows no fear, Sigurth is the brave Volsung hero who slew a dragon, too.

Group of Norsemen in battle
The great Volsung hero, Sigruth, was known as a dragon-slayer. (Image: Drumdredd777/Shutterstock)

Sigurth’s Tutor Regin

As Sigurth reached early adulthood, his tutor, Regin, began to encourage him to seek something more. He suggested slaying a dragon and winning a great deal of treasure. Sigurth asked his tutor to recommend a dragon, and, in fact, Regin did know of one. Let’s hear his story.

Regin recounts how he had two brothers, Fafnir and Otter. Otter was literally an otter, ‘otr’. Otter, in the way of otters, liked to lie on his back with his eyes closed and eat his meals.

One day, the gods Odin, Loki, and Honir, happened to be walking by where Otter was eating a salmon. Loki turned to Odin and told him to watch while he’d catch an otter and a salmon with one rock. So he threw a rock and killed Otter, and the gods took their quarry and walked along.

That evening, the wandering gods came to a home in the forest and asked to stay the night. Hospitality is a central tenet of Norse culture, so the master of the house, Regin and Otter’s father, Hreithmar, invited them in. “Good,” said the gods, “Well we did not come empty-handed. We brought dinner—a salmon and an otter.”

Restitution for the Otter

At this point, Hreithmar and his surviving sons seized the hapless gods and demanded restitution for the murdered Otter. Specifically, Hreithmar requested that Otter be skinned, and the skin filled with gold, as well as covered with gold until he could not see so much as a single whisker.

Loki happened to know where he could get that much gold—an otter-sized portion—and that was with another dwarf who lived in the form of an animal. This was Andvari, who lived as a fish beneath a certain waterfall.

Loki went to Andvari’s waterfall and fished him out. Loki demanded Andvari’s treasure as a ransom, but the fish attempted to hold back one ring for himself.

The Cursed Ring

Loki demanded this last ring as well, but as he took it, the fish put a curse on it that the ring would bring the death of whoever owned it. This was nothing to Loki, who intended to pass it right along to Hreithmar.

The gods skinned Otter and then filled his skin with gold and covered it on the outside with gold. But when the gods covered Otter’s skin, Odin held back this one ring.

But as Hreithmar surveyed the pile of gold, he noticed one whisker from his otter-son’s face poking out of the gold. He told the gods to cover that, too, and so Odin reluctantly produced the final, cursed ring, to cover the last exposed portion.

Hreithmar did not have long to enjoy his treasure. His other son, Fafnir, coveted the treasure and killed his him. For unspecified reasons, Fafnir now became a dragon.

At this point, Regin emerges from the clouds of his flashback and concludes by saying that Fafnir, his brother-dragon, sits on the gold in his lair to this day.

This article comes directly from content in the video series Norse Mythology. Watch it now, on Wondrium.

A Sword to Slay the Dragon

Sigurth says that he is willing to slay this dragon and take the treasure, but first, he will need a sword that is up to the task. Regin volunteers to make such a sword.

Closeup of a battle sword
From the shards of the sword that Odin gave Sigmund years ago, Regin made a new powerful sword for Sigurth to slay the dragon with. (Image: Olga Makukha/Shutterstock)

After trying a couple of swords, Sigurth realizes that he might need a sword of stronger stuff than Regin can make, and so he goes to his mother to ask for the shards of a sword that was broken. This sword was given by Odin to his father, Sigmund, long ago.

As soon as Regin is finished re-forging, the sword does not fail to impress—it seems to glow with a certain inner fire. When Sigurth swings this sword at the anvil, he splits the anvil in half like butter. Then he takes the sword outside, where a gentle creek flows by. Sigurth throws a tuft of wool into the creek upstream from where he puts the sword-blade in the water, and the sword slices the tuft of floating wool with only the pressure of the gentle water.

Now Sigurth truly has a sword worthy of facing a dragon.

Slaying the Dragon

Regin leads Sigurth to the Fafnir the dragon’s lair. There, Sigurth sees a path leading from the dragon’s cave to the stream that he drinks from—except that there is a forty-foot drop from the top of the cliff to where the water is. The dragon is so huge that his neck is able to reach down that entire length.

Now, dragons have soft underbellies, so Sigurth begins to dig a pit in the path that Fafnir is used to slithering on. Sigurth intends to wait within the pit and stab upward at the dragon as it slithers over him later. Regin berates him for his cowardice, before he himself gets scared and runs off into the woods.

About this time, as Sigurth is digging, he is approached by an unfamiliar old man. The old man tells Sigurth not to dig just one pit, but many pits—that way he will stab the dragon while inside one, but the dragon’s poisonous blood can flow into the others. The logic behind this, however, is questionable.

At length, the dragon Fafnir comes slithering from his cave and over the pit where Sigurth lies hiding in wait. The fight scene is very abrupt, where the action itself is the focus of attention. And we simply get to know that Sigurth stabs the dragon.

Common Questions about How the Volsung Hero Sigurth Slayed the Dragon

Q: Why did Sigurth resolve to slay a dragon?

As Sigurth reaches early adulthood, his tutor Regin begins to encourage him to seek something more worthwhile. Specifically, Regin suggests slaying a dragon and winning a great deal of treasure.

Q: Who is the dragon?

The dragon is Fafnir, Regin’s brother who killed his father to get all the treasure his father had.

Q: How did Sigurth slay the dragon?

Sigurth dug a pit in the pathway that Fafnir uses to slither on. As the dragon came slithering down his cave and over the pit, Sigurth who was already hiding in the pit, stabbed him.

Keep Reading
Freyja and Gondul: The Valkyries Who Drive the Norse Myths
Understanding Viking Cultural Values through Norse Mythology
Valkyries As Seen in Norse Mythology