Sigurd and the Dragon

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Sigurd and the Dragon

Big things are expected of Prince Sigurd. His father died before he was born, but left him the pieces of a hero's sword. His mother believes that he will grow up into one of the greatest heros of all times. That's called "pressure". His first quest is set by his Tutor. He has to kill a dragon.

Prince Sigurd is Norse hero that Richard Wagner took up as "Siegfried" in his opera of the same name.

Read by Elizabeth. Written for Storynory by Charlotte Sebag-Montefiore.

Sigurd was the son of a King. That’s a good start in life, but before he was even born, his father was killed in a war. That was not so good. The night after the dreadful battle, the King’s wife, crept over the field where the poor soldiers lay. By the moonlight, she collected the shattered pieces of the king’s old sword and she kept them safely. You see, it was a magic sword, and the king had told her that it would belong to their son, and that he would grow up into one of the greatest heroes of all time.

Sigurd’s mother went to live with another King, and I think she married him. This new King looked after her, and her son, very well. But life was not easy for young Sigurd. He knew that his mother expected a lot of him. It is one thing to have a go at being a hero, and quite another when everyone is waiting for you to grow up into the greatest hero who ever lived. That’s called Pressure.

But he did mature into a fine young man. At least he looked pretty good - all the girls thought he could play the part. He had a special tutor called Regin, whose job it was to see that he knew how to behave as a true Prince. One day he suggested that it was time for Sigurd to go to the King and ask for his own horse. That is what he did, and the King told him to choose any horse he liked from the stables.

On the way across the courtyard, Sigurd met an old man.

“Where are you going?” he said. “Are you about to choose a horse?” In fact, this old fellow was Odin, ruler of the gods, who knew everything. “Would you like my advice?” he asked.

Sigurd looked at him. He didn’t seem like the sort of person who knew about horses. But he had known what Sigurd was about to do, and “Maybe,” thought Sigurd to himself, “Just maybe I ought to listen to what he has to say.”

It was a wise decision: listen to advice and then take it or leave it. The old man told Sigurd to drive all the horses to a river and to choose the one that swam across. It sounded like a good plan, and that is what he did.

The horse that swam across the icy river was a beautiful grey mare, young but not too young, with a tail and mane that flowed with the wind when she galloped. Sigurd stretched out his hand flat with a carrot, and the horse whinnied to a stop and took it.

“That’s my girl,” said Sigurd. He walked the horse back, and saddled it up. “Good choice,” said the old man “This animal is of noble stock: it is descended from Odin’s horse, and will serve you well.” And Sigurd thanked him and went back into the palace.

At dinner he sat next to his old teacher, Regin. “Now you’ve got a horse” said Regin, “Why don’t you go and get some treasure?”

“Well,” said Sigurd “Can it be as easy as that? The only treasure I know about is guarded by the dragon, Fafnir”. As you know, all dragons are terrible, but this one was more terrible than most.

“Are you a coward?” said Regin.

“No,” said the boy. Not for the fist time he began to suspect that his tutor was a little bit sly. He narrowed his eyes and asked: “Why are you so keen for me to kill this dragon?”

Regin told Sigurd some of the truth. Fafnir the dragon had once been human and was in fact Regin’s own brother. There had been three brothers. Regin was the eldest, next was a young man who swam and looked liked an Otter, and the youngest was Fafnir. Now, the otter-like, middle brother had been murdered, which angered the father so much that he demanded the blood price, - a lot of gold - and he got it. But the murderer had stolen the gold from a Dwarf who, surprise, surprise, got very angry. “A curse on you,” he said to the murderer. “ A curse on you forever. And what’s more...this gold will bring bad luck to whoever has it.”

So it was that the family was now cursed. Fafnir killed his own father for the gold, and now rich he worried how to protect his newfound wealth and so he became a dragon to guard it.. Regin had loved his father, and also loved gold, and so wanted vengeance. “That’s why” he said to Sigurd “That’s why I want you to kill Fafnir. I’ll help you too. You know me as a tutor, but I was a great smith and have not lost my skills. I will make you a sword to kill the dragon with.”

“Well make me a sword, and I will slay your brother-dragon,” promised Sigurd, who was now rising to the challenge.

Regin made a beautiful sword. It was straight and strong and glinted in the sun. Sigurd tried it out on a stone, and it smashed to pieces.

“I’m afraid that’s no good to me,” he said. And so Regin made him another sword fit for a prince. Sigurd soon broke that one too.

Everyone at court was talking about how Sigurd had broken two swords as if they were twigs of a tree, and soon his mother heard about it too. The time had come to give her son the broken pieces of his father's blade. Regin made these into a shining and great new sword. Sigurd clashed this blade on a lump of iron, and it did not break, but split the iron in two.

A few days later, Sigurd rode out with Regin to the heath where the Dragon had been seen. It was a bleak and blasted spot. Sigurd looked down and saw a ravine – definitely not a green and pleasant valley. Along the bottom, there was a strange white trail which even from that distance looked like slime.

“There,” said Regin “ See that! It’s slime from the dragon like a snail trail....! That’s the way he goes to drink, there’s a lake at the bottom.” Sigurd saw that the trail was very broad, and the weight of the Dragon had made a huge indent in the ground. “The Dragon must be huge” he said. “Yes,” said Regin “And see that thing that looks like a caravan, that’s the Dragon’s dung!”

“Wow” said Sigurd. There was nothing else to say, and he automatically gripped his sword tighter... “When you go down” said Regin, “be careful to stand at the side. If you go in front of Fafnir, you’ll be poisoned by his breath, and if you go behind him, he’ll knock you over with his tail and then...”

“I know, I know” said Sigurd “He’ll eat me”....and he began to clamber down into the valley. His idea was to ambush the Dragon, to dig a pit with his sword, climb in and hide. When the Reptile slithered across the pit, he would drive his sword into the Dragon’s heart from underneath. It was a brave plan.

If the Dragon’s forelegs fell into the pit, his head would go in and that would be the end of Sigurd. If his hind legs went in, his great feet would claw Sigurd to death or squash him. Either of these things might happen. But Sigurd was brave, and he dug the pit as he thought best, climbed down into it and tried to camouflage over it. He hoped the Dragon would not smell him.

Sigurd had never been so frightened as when he sat in the dark dugout, listening to the dragon getting closer and closer. His heart pounded in his chest and beads of sweat broke out across his forehead. The dragon’s wheezing lungs drew nearer and nearer. And then thud! The dragon arrived over the pit. Without a second to lose Sigurd thrust his sword straight up through the camouflage and it cut directly into the dragon’s heart. Fafnir lashed with his tail till stones broke and trees crashed about him. Then he croaked and said:

`Whoever you are, my gold will bring you death.....'

Sigurd said: “I will die anyway, Fafnir, but now it is you that must die,” and he thrust the sword some more... and Fafnir died.

It was very hard for him to climb out of the pit and over the terrible dead dragon, but Sigurd told himself the dragon was more terrible when he was alive.

Regin came down to meet him and asked him to roast Fafnir's heart for him. Sigurd didn’t much like the idea, but he always obliged people if he could, so while Regin built a little fire, he cut out Fafnir’s heart. He had to touch the disgusting bit of meat, , and while he was putting it on to grill, he burnt his finger.. So he licked it, now sticky with the residue of the dragon’s heart and to his amazement, he was suddenly able to hear what the birds roundabout were saying. One bird said :

“There is Sigurd roasting Fafnir's heart for another, when he should eat it himself and learn all wisdom.'

Another bird said:`There lies Regin, ready to betray Sigurd, who trusts him.'

A third bird said:`Let him cut off Regin's head, and keep all the gold to himself.'

When Sigurd heard the birds’ truth, and understood that he was about to be betrayed, after all he had done for Regin, in a passionate rage he took out his sword once more and cut off his tutor’s head.

Then he heard a fourth bird sing:
“Sigurd kills a dragon

a hero and a man

now he ought to find a bride

Brynhilde, if he can.”

And that is how Sigurd got the idea of going to look for Brynhilde, - but that is another story.